Tribunal told PR firm ‘bullied’ woman out of job

A PUBLIC relations firm run by TV and radio presenter Anton Savage has been accused of bullying an employee out of her job.

Karagh Fox, from Moate, Co Westmeath, claims she was constructively dismissed from her position as a consultant with Mr Savage’s company — The Communications Clinic — after being repeatedly belittled and humiliated by senior staff member Ruth Hickey in front of her colleagues.

She also accused Mr Savage, the company’s managing director, of “interrogating” her and excusing Ms Hickey’s bullying behaviour after Ms Fox made a formal complaint against her.

Mr Savage, who is the son of PR consultant Terry Prone, is also known as a presenter of various shows on Today FM as well as host of TV3’s The Apprentice: You’re Fired.

Ms Fox told a hearing of the Employment Appeals Tribunal in Dublin yesterday that Ms Hickey and Mr Savage accused her of failing to notify the office that she would be absent from work after an operation in October 2008. She said this was despite the fact that she subsequently proved through phone records that she had contacted her workplace on a daily basis.

Ms Fox claimed she found Ms Hickey’s behaviour towards her to be “extremely intimidating” and “aggressive”.

On one occasion, she alleged that Ms Hickey blamed her for a credit card which had bounced when she (Ms Hickey) was at a function in Cork with prospective clients.

Ms Fox said she only received a copy of the firm’s grievance procedure for the first time after she had made a formal complaint against Ms Hickey. She claimed that staff had previously joked about having no contract or procedures in place.

Ms Fox claimed Mr Savage was very dismissive about her allegations of bullying by Ms Hickey but she denied any suggestion that she was oversensitive.

She said she was shaking “like a leaf” after being “badgered” by Mr Savage who had also been “sarcastic” in his comments.

Ms Fox recalled that Mr Savage became impatient with the grievance procedure and claimed he complained that he had spent five days on the issue, which he claimed was worth about €15,000 of his time.

Ms Fox said she didn’t know how she came into work for the month after she had made the complaint. “It was just a horrible place to be,” she told the tribunal.

Mr Savage subsequently refused to meet Ms Fox when she requested that she could be accompanied by her solicitor.

Ms Fox resigned from her €27,500-a-year job in November 2009.

“There was no way I could go back into that atmosphere and keep my sanity,” she observed.

Ms Fox, who is currently unemployed, said she had worked in the interim for Mullingar Chamber of Commerce. She claimed her case against The Communications Clinic had come to the attention of her employers in Mullingar “through political contacts” and they had questioned her about the matter.

Ms Hickey also attracted media attention in the past over her relationship with David Agnew, the estranged husband of TV entertainer, Twink.

Ms Hickey is due to be called as a witness when the EAT hearing resumes in October.

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