Don’t get caught off side!

15-06-2016

Football is a popular topic of conversation in the James Legal office at the moment with the Euro 2016 underway. We all clubbed together for an office sweepstake; I got Russia?! 

The excitement of the Euros’ aside, recently we have seen a particularly interesting story in the news involving Chelsea Football Club and their former doctor, Eva Carneiro. 

Carneiro brought a constructive unfair dismissal claim against the Club along with a sexual discrimination and harassment claim against the Club’s former manager, Jose Mourinho, which was due to be heard by a tribunal this week. 

Constructive unfair dismissal requires the employee to establish that the actions of the employer were so bad that they damaged the employment relationship so much so the employee felt they could no longer work for the employer. Sexual discrimination and harassment requires an employee to establish that they suffered treatment that put them at a disadvantage because of a characteristic recognised by the Equality Act 2010 and that they received unwanted conduct. 

It is generally more difficult for an employee to satisfy the requirements of a constructive unfair dismissal claim because the burden of proof is on the employee to demonstrate the behaviour of the employer was sufficient to breach the implied term of trust and confidence in the employment contract, rather than a straight forward unfair dismissal claim which requires the employer to demonstrate why their decision to dismiss the employee was fair. In many circumstances the events leading up to the employees resignation will be historic and over a significant length of time which increases the difficultly in collating sufficient evidence to support the case.

It is reported that Carneiro was alleging that the Club failed to address complaints about the use of offensive language and a lack of female changing facilities. A particular point of interest which was been widely reported on is that of an incident during one of the Club’s matches in which it is alleged Mourinho used explicit and offensive language towards her which amounted to sex discrimination. It is alleged he later reprimanded the decision she made in response to the events that occurred during the match unreasonably and demoted her. 

A settlement was reached before the tribunal was concluded and, perhaps more importantly for the parties, before many confidential and damaging details regarding the parties were disclosed. The tribunal was due to last a lengthy 10 days and it is reported that a settlement offer of £1.2m was previously rejected by Carneiro.

Whilst it is not a common occurrence for a claim against a bog standard employer to attract such a high financial reward, it does highlight just how damaging a claim of this nature can be from a financial perspective and also in respect of business reputation. 

Where issues do arise during the employment relationship, grievances should be encouraged and it is beneficial to try to iron out issues in a productive way before they can amount to a great risk. 

It is always imperative that staff know what is expected of them and know what is and isn’t acceptable in the workplace. This can be achieved with clear policies and proactive training and any behaviour that is not acceptable should be dealt with appropriately and consistently. 

As always, if you have any issues at all that you’d like to have a chat about, please do get in touch with me, Sara Brown, on 01482 974470


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