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Friday 29 August 2014

TV star Casey to testify as sister accused in unfair dismissal case

Allison Bray

Published 05/04/2014 | 02:30

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Norah Casey chatting with Eimear Rabbitte
Norah Casey

THE subscriptions manager at Norah Casey's publishing company claims that three days after seeing an online advertisement for her job, she was told her services were no longer required.

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Susan McDonald has told an Employment Appeals Tribunal (EAT) that when Norah's sister, Carissa Casey, took an active role in the company in 2012, problems "really started".

"I loved working at Harmonia. I loved the job. I got on with everyone but the problems really started when Carissa started," Ms McDonald told a tribunal yesterday.

"She stripped away my confidence."

Ms McDonald claims she was unfairly dismissed when she received a letter on February 11, 2013, advising her that her services were no longer required as the job description had changed, but that she was welcome to re-apply for the position.

Ms McDonald said that three days prior to this she was left in shock when a co-worker asked her if she was leaving the company and showed her an online advertisement for her job.

"They advertised my job as exactly the same job I was doing," she told the tribunal.

Ms McDonald said she had been equally surprised to receive a letter from the company a month previously, which told her she was liable to pay her own income tax.

She had believed that the company was deducting PAYE from her pay.

When she queried the letter, she was told that she had been hired as an independent contractor, not a staff employee.

Ms McDonald said she believed that she had been hired as staff by Norah Casey in August 2009 to work as a subscription co-ordinator for the 'Ireland of the Welcomes' magazine.

Her role was later expanded to include general subscriptions management duties as a subscriptions executive, the tribunal heard.

STRESSED

She said she was told by Norah Casey to submit a list of the hours she worked each week, which she did, believing it to be a tally of hours worked and not invoices as an outside contractor.

Ms McDonald was stunned to be let go as she loved her job and got along well with her colleagues.

She said things changed in January 2012 when Norah Casey's sister, Carissa Casey, took over the role of CEO, which had been filled by Norah's late husband.

Ms McDonald was then reporting directly to Carissa Casey when she took over as the company's marketing manager to fill a maternity vacancy in July 2012.

"She stripped away my confidence," she told the tribunal. "I was in customer service all my life. But I was so stressed and conscious of what I was saying," she said, breaking down. "Every word I said, she listened to."

Carissa Casey did not appear yesterday. Her brother, Ciaran Casey, who is representing the company, denies the unfair dismissal claim.

Appearing as a witness for the company, marketing manager Victoria Bradshaw said Ms McDonald reported to her between January 2011 and July 2012, when she went on maternity leave.

During that time, she was happy with Ms McDonald's work. However, she said Ms McDonald was the only employee who provided "invoices" to document her working hours.

For this reason, Ms Bradshaw believed that she was a contractor and not a staff member because she wasn't on the company payroll.

EAT chairman Charles Corcoran said yesterday that Norah Casey would be called as a witness in the adjourned hearing in September.

He noted that there were "gaps in evidence" provided by the company's CEO, her brother Ciaran.

Ms Casey stepped down last October as CEO of Harmonia Publishers which publishes titles including 'Irish Tatler', 'Woman's Way' and 'U'. She stepped down following the death of her husband and business partner Richard Hannaford in 2011.

Irish Independent

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