Apprentice winner Stella English loses court fight

Stella English: Lost constructive dismissal claim. Picture: PA
Stella English: Lost constructive dismissal claim. Picture: PA
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Stella English, former winner of The Apprentice, has lost her claim of constructive dismissal against millionaire businessman Lord Sugar.

• Former Apprentice winner Stella English loses court case against Lord Sugar

• Ms English claimed she was treated like “overpaid lackey” in £100,000-a-year role

• Judge throws out constructive dismissal claim because Ms English resigned from her post

• Lord Sugar says case is “victory for law against claim culture”

Ms English, 34, sued the Labour peer after resigning from the £100,000-a-year job that was her prize for winning series six of the BBC1 show in 2010, complaining that she was treated like an “overpaid lackey”.

The case was heard at East London Tribunal Service last month. In a written judgment today, the tribunal said: “There was no dismissal of the claimant - the claimant resigned. Therefore the complaint of unfair constructive dismissal contrary to section 95 Employment Rights Act 1996 fails and is dismissed.”

On Twitter, Lord Sugar wrote today: “The Tribunal case brought by Stella English against me and my company has been dismissed. A victory for the law against the claim culture.”

The Labour peer accused Ms English of attempting to “blackmail” him when he gave evidence to the tribunal, saying he had no case to answer and that Ms English was after his money.

Ms English was given a £100,000 role with Lord Sugar’s IT division Viglen as her prize but resigned in May 2011 and complained that her role there was that of an “overpaid lackey”’, something her former boss strongly denied. She also claimed the job was “a sham” and a “PR construct”.

The mother of two, from Whitstable, Kent, said she then felt pressurised into taking up a new position at Lord Sugar’s internet set-top box company You View.

Lord Sugar said he was trying to help her out as she had complained of being “desperate for money”.

Ms English claimed to the tribunal that during an unscheduled meeting on September 28 2011, Lord Sugar told her he would not be renewing her contract and he told her he did not “give a shit”.

But rather than his comment being aimed at Ms English, Lord Sugar meant he was expressing his disregard at how the matter might play out in the media.

He told the tribunal he was being paid back for his kindness by “having to come here and humiliate myself in front of the national media”, adding: “I’m here because I have principles and I’m not just going to pay off people.

“When her instructing solicitor heard my name, it must have been ‘Ding, ding, ding - jackpot’.”

Lord Sugar admitted it made him “very angry” to have “derisory actions” brought against him by Ms English, describing it as “tantamount to blackmail”.

He said while giving evidence: “I’m here because I believe I have no case to answer and because I trust in the tribunal system and I’m here because I believe this is a classic abuse of the tribunal system.”

He accused his former apprentice of being a “serial liar” during the tribunal and said that, with hindsight, he would have neither hired her nor offered her a second position when she initially resigned.

In a statement, Lord Sugar said the case brought by Ms English was a “charade” and he vowed to put an end to the so-called claim culture.

He said: “I am pleased that the tribunal has returned this verdict and feel vindicated in the judgment that myself, my companies, the BBC, the TV production company and my staff acted properly throughout Ms. English’s employment.

“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.

“I have been cleared of a derisory attempt to smear my name and extract money from me. 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. I have principles and I am not going to be forced to compromise them, no matter how much time and money they might cost me.

“This case was a sham and a total abuse of a tribunal system, which is there to protect employees who have been mistreated. It is not there to aid those chancing their arm at landing a big payday. I hope that other companies will learn from this example and also fight off derisory claims.

“What has happened here is representative of a new wave of claim culture where some employees file spurious actions regardless of whose reputation it may smear in the process.

“I have spoken about this subject in the House of Lords and will continue to campaign to put an end to this practice, which has developed in recent years and is seemingly spiralling out of control. This has to be stopped.”