Apprentice winner loses her constructive dismissal claim against Lord Sugar

Stella English, winner of the BBC Apprentice reality television show in 2010, has lost her claim of constructive dismissal against Lord Alan Sugar.

Ms English, 34, described her £100,000 employment contract as a “sham” and that her position was more of an “overpaid lackey” than a high-profile apprentice. She argued that she was forced to quit her job when the contract was not renewed.

However the employment tribunal in East London sided with Lord Sugar, finding that as Ms English had resigned there was no dismissal, and that there were also no grounds for the complaint of unfair constructive dismissal. Following the unanimous ruling in his favour, Lord Sugar tweeted “A victory for the law against the claim culture.”

Lord Sugar Tweet

Judge John Warren in his written judgment concluded: “This was a claim which should never have been brought. There was no assurance or suggestion that the winner would receive direct mentoring from Lord Sugar.”

Ms English told the employment tribunal that she was given a desk and a telephone but no specific duties during a four month probationary period with Viglen, one of Lord Sugar’s companies, and that her boss Bordan Tkachuk looked at her with “contempt” on her first day and told her “There is no job.”

However the employment tribunal found that Ms English had been given a “real job” with “enormous scope for advancement and learning.”

In a statement after the judgment Lord Sugar said: “There was never a case for us to answer but her need for money and fame meant that the whole system was subjected to this charade.

“The allegations were without substance, and I believe this case was brought with one intention in mind – the presumption that I would not attend the tribunal, that I would not testify and that I would settle out of court, sending Ms English on her way with a tidy settlement. I’m afraid she underestimated me and her reputation is now in tatters.”

An employee can be constructively dismissed if they resign following a fundamental breach of their contract of employment by their employer. This breach has to be fundamental, that is to say it goes to the very heart of the agreement between the employer and employee, leaving the employee but with no choice but to resign.

Examples of an employer’s breach of contract might include the imposition of radically different terms of employment, harassment, humiliation, victimisation, bullying, discrimination, failure to support the employee, imposing a change in the employee’s place of work at short notice or reducing salary or wages.