Wrongly Accused Surveyor Wins £110K in Harassment and Victimisation Case

In Debbie Jacka v Steren Surveyors Limited and Others, a female surveyor has been awarded over £100,000. This comes after she was wrongly accused of having an affair with her boss and was sacked. Read on as we explore what happened. We uncover the events that led to her wrongful dismissal and outline the employment tribunal’s judgment.

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The Facts in Debbie Jacka v Steren Surveyors Limited and Others


Debbie Jacka (“The Claimant”) became a trainee surveyor and director of Steren Surveyors Limited (“The Respondent”) in April 2021. The surveying company had been established by Peter Ellicock, who’d previously partly owned an estate agency with the female surveyor.

As the tribunal described it, the relationship between the claimant and Mr Ellicock was initially “close and harmonious”. However, things began to change that summer when Mr Ellicock informed the claimant of his wife’s trust issues. He explained that she wasn’t happy with the amount of time the pair were spending together during work.

The tribunal learned that the claimant would regularly attend Mr Ellicock’s site visits because he had dyslexia. Having her present provided him assistance when writing up reports.

Also, during this period, the claimant was applying for a mortgage and needed an employer reference. Mr Ellicock initially agreed to provide this. However, due to his busy schedule, he instructed the claimant to send the reference from his wife’s email. When Mrs Ellicock discovered what had happened, she wasn’t happy, believing it to constitute ‘fraud’.

Female Surveyor Wrongly Accused of Having an Affair with Her Boss

On 9 August, Mr Ellicock and the female surveyor spent the majority of the day together working on homebuyer surveys. Unfortunately, his wife became suspicious since he wasn’t answering his phone. Consequently, she accused them of having an affair later that evening.

The next day, Mr Ellicock informed the claimant about what had transpired and told her not to raise the matter with his wife. Instead, he suggested that she should be “extra nice”. When the claimant learned of the accusations, she felt “distressed and humiliated”.

The following week, the claimant was on annual leave. Upon her return, she learned she could no longer attend site visits with Mr Ellicock, discuss non-work-related matters with him, or meet him outside the office. These sudden stringent conditions were attributed to Mrs Ellicock’s suspicions.

Peter Ellicock Berates the Claimant

On 1 September, following a site visit, Mr Ellicock mistakenly provided an estate agent with the wrong set of keys. This error led to a subsequent discussion between him and the claimant, during which he shouted at her. The claimant was taken aback by his conduct, finding his behaviour intimidating and ultimately being brought to tears.

A few days later, Mr Ellicock apologised for his behaviour during a meeting with the claimant. However, a similar incident occurred later that month, again leaving the female surveyor intimidated by his conduct.

The tribunal heard that Mr Ellicock continued to correspond with the claimant in a hostile manner over the following months. They believed this shift in behaviour was due to the accusations of the affair, noting that he had previously shared a good working relationship with the claimant.

The Respondent Dismisses the Female Surveyor

On 11 November, the claimant was asked to attend a meeting where she received feedback on the quality of her work, learning that it wasn’t satisfactory. During the meeting, Mr Ellicock stated, “Clearly, you and Emma despise each other. I can’t work with you anymore”.

The female surveyor was sent home and told she would be contacted regarding her shares in the respondent company. The next day, she discovered that she had been locked out of her computer and denied access to her emails. 

In the subsequent weeks, her BUPA healthcare was cancelled, and she was offered a sum for her shares. Mr Ellicock informed her that if she didn’t accept the offer, he would remove her as director and shut the company down.

Indeed, Mr Ellicock followed through on his threats. On 13 December, he established a new company, and on 19 January 2022, he applied to have the claimant removed as a director of the respondent. Consequently, on 30 March, the claimant initiated employment tribunal proceedings. Her claims included sex discrimination, harassment, victimisation, and wrongful dismissal.

The Employment Tribunal’s Judgment

The tribunal highlighted several instances that created “an intimidating, degrading, humiliating, and offensive environment”, violating the claimant’s dignity.

One example included Mr Ellicock informing the female surveyor about his wife falsely accusing them of having an affair. They felt similarly about him telling her she could no longer accompany him to appointments and later shouting at her. The tribunal explained that although this conduct didn’t arise from the claimant’s sex, it stemmed from accusations related to sex. Therefore, they upheld these claims of harassment.

Furthermore, the tribunal found that the respondent had breached the claimant’s employment contract. This was because they dismissed her, later alleging she’d committed ‘mortgage fraud’, which would have constituted gross misconduct.

However, the tribunal determined that by sending the mortgage reference via Mrs Ellicock’s email, the claimant had not committed mortgage fraud and, thus, had not engaged in the alleged misconduct. Consequently, they ruled her dismissal wrongful.

Ultimately, the tribunal ruled in the claimant’s favour on her claims of harassment related to sex, victimisation, unauthorised wage deductions, and wrongful dismissal. They awarded her £109,061.32, covering compensatory awards, damages, and unlawful wage deductions.

If you have experienced something similar to the female surveyor, contact us today. With years of industry experience, Redmans Solicitors can discuss your circumstances and provide specialist advice on your possible next steps. To begin, simplify: