Apprentice star wins unfair dismissal claim over 'appalling sexual abuse'

Elle Stevenson starred on The Apprentice in 2015. (BBC)
Elle Stevenson starred on The Apprentice in 2015. (BBC)

A star of BBC TV show The Apprentice has won an unfair dismissal claim over "appalling sexual abuse" after she was forced to quit her job as an office manager at a waste disposal company.

Elle Stevenson, who appeared on the show in 2015, left London-based environmental support company Eden Beck following a barrage of sexist behaviour from male colleagues.

The former BBC reality personality was branded "fat", "ugly", "elephant man" and a "dirty tramp" during her time at the firm, Watford Employment Tribunal heard.

Notes calling her a "c***" were stuck on her computer and she was forced to pick up faeces left by her boss' dog in the office.

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On a work WhatsApp group, she was also called a “s*** employee” who “couldn’t arrange a period in a vagina”.

Once, when Stevenson sent a picture of her face following an allergic reaction, colleague James Day commented: “Still ugly – need you ask”, “swelling an improvement” and “you are a pig in s***”.

One colleague then wrote that she looked like “elephant man”.

Other messages in the group, titled "EBK Office Crew", referred to her in a sexually explicit way and described her as a “dirty tramp”.

While on holiday, Stevenson was told by a colleague that she should “hit the gym” while another wrote that her life was a “car crash and no bloke would touch her”.

Day added that she should not eat food because she was already too fat and her waistline had increased.

In one incident, 10 male employees were sent on a free trip to Las Vegas paid for by the firm's finance director Stuart Mayall and his son Chris, also a director at the firm.

Not a single female employee was invited, prompting further accusations of discrimination.

When these were put to Mayall, he told the tribunal that women were not allowed on the Las Vegas trip because he didn't want any "hanky panky".

On Monday, employment judge Stephen Bedeau ruled in Stevenson's favour on sex discrimination, constructive dismissal and disability discrimination.

But her claims for harassment due to her sex and disability were dismissed.

Bedeau told the tribunal: "It is clear from the evidence that the claimant has been the victim of appalling sexual abuse. We find that the work environment was male-dominated with the use of blatantly sexist and offensive language."

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Stevenson had sued the environmental services and waste management company, claiming she was forced to quit.

She said she had been unable to fully return to work because she was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after a thief tried to steal her mobile phone in December 2018.

But Eden Beck bosses started redundancy proceedings due to her absence in the following months, despite the fact she showed them medical certificates showing her PTSD diagnosis, the tribunal heard.

Stevenson told the tribunal that she was shocked to receive this notification of a disciplinary hearing in June, saying it came just a week after she discovered she needed surgery on her cheekbone.

She was just 21 when she featured in series 11 of The Apprentice alongside Lord Sugar. She was fired in week six after failing to win a single task.

A hearing to decide what compensation Stevenson will receive will take place at a later date.

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