The Apprentice analysed…

The Apprentice analysed...Each week we watch as Sir Alan Sugar yells ‘YOU’RE FIRED!’ at one of The Apprentice wannabes.

More deliciously salacious is watching these wannabes trying to make the most of Sir Alan’s tasks. With only one six-figure salary on offer the contestants declare all out war to get their hands on the prize.

Inevitably, this raises questions about the ethics used by some in the reality programme. Four employment solicitors discuss the employment issues raised in this week’s episode.

What happened this week…

This week teams were tasked with tracking down the items on a shopping list in the bazaars of Marrakesh.

This spurred the bribery of a tennis racket stringer, a row over where to get a cow hide and Sir Alan asking Michael to drop his kecks to provide evidence of his Jewishness after the self-proclaimed ‘good Jewish boy’ didn’t know what a kosher chicken was.

But whether Michael is Roundhead or Cavalier, this week it was the two Jennys that got the chop. See below for our expert panel’s assessment of what legal issues the show brought up.

Thursday, May 8th, 2008
Alan Nicholson, McGrigors

It’s the chicken I feel sorry for. He always kept his beak clean; tried not to ruffle too many feathers. But suddenly to be plucked from his coop and sacrificed at the altar of capitalism, en route to chicken limbo – what a finger-lickin’ fiasco…

Religious discrimination is a hot topic for employment lawyers right now, but Sir Alan’s charges did not discriminate: they were equally ignorant of all religions.

Project Manager Lee did his bit for diversity (“You are Jewish? I love you!”), but nice “half Jewish” boy Michael was found wanting by the boss man for not having the faintest idea what kosher meant.

And a note for employers : asking a member of staff to drop his Calvin Kleins in the boardroom is not part of the statutory dispute resolution procedures.

There was plenty more to keep employment lawyers glued to the show. Was Raef right to say that all black suits and ties would be redundant in Morocco – and if so wasn’t some kind of collective consultation in order?

Does Alex have grounds for constructive dismissal after being forced to pretend to be Claire’s boyfriend, in public? And did Jenny get the bullet for attempting to bribe a supplier in the course of her duties, or was it the chicken wot stuffed her?

Jennifer M also had to go, but my guess is that’s just because she reminded Sir Alan of the annoying one out of 90s pop band B*Witched.

If Sir Alan wants my advice (as well he might), I would suggest hiring the boy on the moped who managed to get £75 for his mum’s old orange juicer. Now that’s salesmanship.

Thursday, May 8th, 2008
Eleanor Jennings, Russell, Jones & Walker

Sir Alan excelled himself this week with a discrimination hat trick! This began with the “kosher chicken incident”. Both teams seemed to deal with this issue with utter hilarity and contempt, getting Jenny and Michael into trouble with the big man, who questioned their intelligence and their integrity.

Sir Alan had a clear policy that the candidates should know what kosher means. So we wonder, if an employer has such a policy:

• does it amount to direct or indirect discrimination for the purposes of the Race Relations Act 1976 or EE (Religion or Belief) Regulations 2003?

• is the position affected if a lesser degree of knowledge is required a) of a Jewish applicant or b) of a candidate who has previously claimed to be Jewish?

Sir Alan also questioned Michael’s religion and his claim that he was a “good Jewish boy,” suggesting that order to get to the bottom of this Sir Alan suggested Michael pull down his trousers.

We don’t recommend this as a new method of monitoring diversity in the workplace for a whole range of reasons, among them that it could amount to harassment or direct discrimination due to Michael’s religion, as he was treated differently for his not-being Jewish.

Thursday, May 8th, 2008
Hannah Ford, associate, Stevens & Bolton

It was a ladies doubles event last night as Jenny Celerier and Jennifer Maguire went out in straight sets. In a ‘bazaar’ turn of events (ho ho), Jenny C’s decision to bribe a Moroccan tennis racket stringer was too much for Sir Alan, who he branded a snake for ‘stringing up’ her opponents.

No sooner had Jenny Celerier slithered from the board room than Jennifer Maguire joined her in a shock double dismissal.

One of the many questions troubling employment lawyers this morning is whether Sir Alan would have got away with her dismissal in a real life workplace?

Jenny C’s decision was a gross error of judgment but a different employer on a different day may have praised her ingenuity. After all, her winner-takes-all approach was ruthless lateral thinking at its best in a dusty Souk where ‘prix fixe’ counts for nothing.

In determining whether Sir Alan had acted reasonably, Sir Alan would have to show that dismissal on the bribery charge alone was in the ‘range of reasonable responses’ open to him, to do which he could refer to her aggression, divisiveness or the breakdown in her relationships with her colleagues.

However, in the vipers’ den that is this year’s group of hopefuls, and to avoid claims of discrimination on the grounds of sex, age or religion, he would then surely have no alternative than to dismiss the lot of them.

Thursday, May 8th, 2008
Ellie Hibberd, associate, Dawsons

Last night’s debacle raised so many employment issues it is difficult to know where to start:

1. Michael lied in his CV claiming to be a “good Jewish boy” but subsequently had to admit he didn’t even know what a kosher chicken was.

2. He was also complicit with Jenny C’s attempt to thwart the Renaissance team using bribery. Notwithstanding that these issues seriously undermined the relationship of trust and his personal credibility, Sir Alan was prepared to give him another chance.

3. Though lacking purpose, no one could doubt the offensive effects of Jenny M’s “Hail Marys” over the Mosque alarm clock, not to mention the purported Kosher chicken being blessed by an imam saying “Allah, Allah, Allah”, bought for an allegedly “good Jewish boy”. (Maybe the discrimination laws should also be extended to cover pure stupidity?)

4. Jenny C’s adoption of bribery and espionage in an attempt to be “inventive” and “shrewd”.

5. The potentially sexual and religious harassment by your boss’s suggestion, in front of your colleagues and six million viewers, that you pull your trousers down to check your faith!

Thursday, May 8th, 2008
Julia Mingay, Withers

The key to Souk-cess? Well, it’s not bribery, backstabbing and lying… or not this week at least.

After failing by both Jenny C and Michael – she tried to pull some tennis strings in the sports shop and claimed she didn’t know what kosher meant; while self-described ‘good Jewish boy’ Michael was forced to retreat to being only ‘half Jewish’ after his ignorance of kosher practice – it was Michael that was spared the chop.

Albeit unconsciously, this may have been because Sir Alan saw a bit of himself in Michael, and this attitude is the bedrock of many acts of discrimination: people liking and favouring people like themselves.

So does this leave the Jennys with a claim for discrimination on the grounds of sex, race and/or religion? Did they lose out because they’re women and not (half) Jewish? Also, while Michael was young and Jenny C is ‘slightly older than the rest of them’ – all the grounds for a discrimination quadruple-whammy.

Please click here to see what the bloggers had to say last week.