Former Apprentice contestant suffered 'sexist and violent behaviour'

An office manager who was made to pick up dog mess and had the boss’ son throw a ball at her head has won her case of unfair dismissal and sex discrimination.

Eleanor Stevenson, who had once been a contestant on the BBC’s The Apprentice, began working for environmental services company Edenbeck in June 2016.

In February 2017, Stevenson, along with two other female members of staff, complained that they were being treated less favourably than their male colleagues in the business.

For example, unlike the male employees, they had not been invited on a £7,000 company trip to Las Vegas.

Finance director Stuart Mayall explained the decision was made because he feared there would be ‘hanky panky’ if he were to also include women on the trip.

He did, however, say he would address the complaints and offered to send them on a £3,000 spa break, although he did neither according to Stevenson.

On one occasion when Mayall had brought his son and their new puppy into the office, Stevenson was ordered to clean up after the dog messed on the floor. The son also threw the dog’s ball at her head so hard it made her cry.

On her way home from an office Christmas party in 2018, Stevenson was assaulted by two strangers and suffered cuts and bruising to her face and a hairline fracture to her cheek.

She was signed off work by her doctor and exchanged text messages with Mayall to inform him of the situation.

Stevenson returned to work in March 2019 but was overwhelmed and went home after half a day. She was suffering with flashbacks and nightmares, felt fearful around strangers or open spaces and was diagnosed with PTSD.

She texted Mayall again informing him she was not yet in a position where she could return to work.

She received an email from Mayall outlining the plan to initiate her redundancy saying that he had no choice.

The company requested a meeting with Stevenson, but she declined saying she was not well enough to attend.

Mayall invited her to a disciplinary hearing regarding her ‘unauthorised absence’ even though she had believed her doctor’s note had no specified end date.

She resigned after three years with Edenbeck following the series of incidents that left her physically and emotionally traumatised. In her resignation letter she mentioned that the company had sent her ‘bullying emails’ instead of ‘offering support as is your duty as an employer’.

Stevenson took her case to the Employment Tribunal which ruled in her favour.

Further details of the bullying behaviours were unearthed during the hearing, including Stevenson having her car keys hidden, being referred to as ‘Elle at fat club’ and receiving hateful post-it notes and emails while at work.

Video footage, taken by the finance director’s son, also revealed Stevenson had been forcibly lifted from her office chair and wrestled to the ground by a much larger male employee who mimicked a wrestling pin on her while another male colleague played the role of referee and delivered a three count.

Judge Bedeau described the working environment at Edenbeck as “male dominated with the use

of blatantly sexist and offensive language” and that Stevenson had been subjected to “sexist and violent behaviour”.

Compensation will be determined at a separate hearing.

Please contact us if you would like more information about the issues raised in this article or any aspect of employment law.