Belfast Telegraph

I was spoken to like a dog, former Quinn employee tells tribunal

By Louise Hogan

A former employee of Quinn Insurance has claimed she was pushed out of her job after being sneered at and spoken to like "a dog".

Olivia Barry (36), from Navan, Co Meath, has taken a case for constructive dismissal against the firm -- now known as Liberty Insurance, after a deal was struck to buy the company founded by bankrupt businessman Sean Quinn.

Ms Barry yesterday alleged at an Employment Appeals Tribunal sitting in Trim, Co Meath, that her complaints to the company over her treatment by a colleague on the commercial claims team were not taken seriously.

She told how she suffered panic attacks and started getting physically sick in the mornings after she began working as a claims co-ordinator for the commercial side of the business in March 2008, in its office in Kells, Co Meath.

"The job I had in Quinn, I really did like. I feel I was pushed out of my job," she said, adding it was unlike anything she had experienced in another office. "The first time I complained, something should have been done," she said.

Ms Barry said she could potentially have made a complaint every week and it was "an absolute disaster".

During her evidence, Ms Barry said the regional claims controller on her team, Ken O'Connell, was "very unapproachable" and constantly found fault with her work.

"He spoke down to me like I was a dog," she said.

After raising the issue with human resources personnel, Ms Barry said she broke down and cried. She requested a move from her seat but this did not take place.

The former employee said she felt like she was being interrogated when her six-month probationary review arose and her claims manager, Padraig Carroll, told her to "buck up" and that her job was on the line.

Ms Barry, who fought back tears during her evidence, said she had taken days off sick as she could not bear to go into work. She alleged she was treated differently to other team members in terms of requests for annual leave, and CCTV footage she was supposed to review went missing a number of times. She also claimed Mr O'Connell had sneered and laughed with another worker at her appearance.

A solicitor for Quinn, now Liberty Insurance, sought dates and times of the alleged claims. Ms Barry said she did not have them.

She told how she had raised issues again with both human resources and a team leader.

She told the tribunal that in March 2009 she was moved into a private motor claims team and just a few weeks later she was moved without training to a new team set up to improve procedures in the company.

She had only been working in it a couple of days when she left in April on sick leave. An occupational therapist recommended she was not fit to return to work for a further eight to 10 weeks.

She resigned in February 2010.

Summarising her evidence, tribunal chair Tom Ryan said the claims included that she felt "picked on, bullied to a certain extent, harassed" and the company had not dealt adequately with the complaint.

Ms Barry told how she had not worked since and had planned to emigrate to Canada before discovering she was outside the age limit for the visa and had become pregnant.

Mr Ryan adjourned the case until April 17 when cross examination of Ms Barry will take place.

Belfast Telegraph


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