The beautiful game?


It has recently been in the national press that Chelsea Football Club’s team doctor, Eva Carneiro, had brought claims of constructive unfair dismissal against the Club and further claims of sex discrimination and harassment against former manager Jose Mourinho.

On 7 June 2016, it was reported that the claims had been settled on confidential terms, but what were the primary arguments, and what can employers learn from Chelsea and Jose’s mistakes?

At a Chelsea game in August 2015, Dr Carneiro and her colleague ran on to the pitch to treat one of the players. It would appear that Mr Mourinho wasn’t happy with this as it could have left him a player down on the pitch – indeed, that’s what happened for a short time while the player was treated by medical staff.

The allegations by Dr Carneiro against Mr Mourinho are that he shouted “filha da puta” (“daughter of a whore” in Portuguese) at her while she ran on to the pitch. Dr Carneiro further alleged that attempts were made to demote her from the first team, she was the subject of sexually explicit comments from colleagues and that no female changing facilities were provided.

The allegation by Dr Carneiro against the Club is essentially around their inaction to do anything to calm and resolve the escalating situation. At one of the hearings Dr Carneiro’s lawyer, Mary O’Rourke QC, said the following: “The bad employee forces the good employee out of the job of her dreams and the employer does nothing to stop it.

“The bad employee berates, sexually harassed and demoted the good employee for carrying out her professional duties, namely her health and safety duties as the first-team doctor, pitch-side.

“Rather than investigating and disciplining the bad employee, the employer allows the bad employee to confirm demotion … and to continue with his job.”

As an employer, the Club should have been investigating all of the allegations immediately and, if found to have merit, taken the necessary action against employees, which could have involved disciplinary action against Mr Mourinho. Instead, they appear to have adopted the “ostrich position” and put their heads in the sand.

This is certainly the easy solution when faced with serious allegations increasing in number and complexity by the day, but swift, decisive action could have meant that, ultimately, the Club could have retained the services of Dr Carneiro and avoided negative publicity at national level.

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