Chelsea’s ‘Pitchside Ban For Eva Carneiro’ Puts Employment Law In Spotlight

Legal Experts React To Club’s Decision To ‘Demote’ Medical Expert

13.08.2015

Chelsea Football Club’s decision to ban doctor Eva Carneiro from touchline duties after manager Jose Mourinho criticised her for treating Eden Hazard during Saturday’s match with Swansea City potentially raises several employment law issues, according to specialist lawyers.

Carneiro is reportedly expected to not be on the bench for the team’s game this weekend after Mourinho described medical staff as naïve for treating the player, with the move meaning Chelsea were down to nine players towards the end of their Premier League fixture after goalkeeper Thibault Courtois was sent off.

It is thought that while the doctor, who joined Chelsea in 2009, will continue to work with players at the training ground, she will no longer be involved in training or matchdays.

The move has caused some controversy in the sports world, with people including Liverpool’s former head of medicine Peter Bruckner speaking out to the BBC to criticise the decision and also Mourinho for “publicly humiliating” his member of staff.

Reacting to the news, employment experts at Irwin Mitchell have said the situation raises several factors and may potentially leave the club open to legal action.

Expert Opinion
“It is difficult to know the exact situation regarding the decisions made by Chelsea.

“What we do know from previous cases however, is that football tends to exist in a vacuum when it comes to employment issues – and it is safe to say, from reports, that if this situation emerged in another sector there could be implications for those involved.

“For example, as it could be argued that speaking out about her publically has damaged the implied duty of trust and confidence between the parties, there could potentially be a claim for constructive unfair dismissal. There could also be a claim for sex discrimination if the comments would not have been directed at a man in a similar situation, the implication seemingly being that as a woman, she did not understand the “beautiful game”.

“On the flipside however, if an employee disobeys what is regarded as a lawful instruction, he or she can ultimately be disciplined. In serious cases employers would also be within their rights to demote a worker, but they would have to go through a proper process to do so.

“This would involve an investigation, hearing and appeal and the right to demote should also be included in the contract of employment, or agreement reached with the employee about this – perhaps as an alternative to being dismissed.

“Given the public interest in this issue and the outrage this has caused – it even seems some senior people at Chelsea have also sympathised with Carneiro recognising that she was doing her job by treating the players – the spotlight will be on how long this seemingly enforced pitchside ban lasts for and whether the matter can be resolved.

“Whilst it is unlikely that Mourinho will be disciplined for his actions – which again one could expect in another sector if the comments were deemed to be of a discriminatory nature – it will be interesting to see how long the apparent ban continues for.”
Glenn Hayes, Partner