Premier League Football Club makes substantial settlement payment to a former member of its backroom staff
Former Chelsea Football Club doctor Eva Carneiro has settled her constructive unfair dismissal claim against the Premier League outfit and the separate proceedings against Jose Mourinho, the team’s manager at the time, for alleged sex discrimination and victimisation.
Having already turned down an offer of £1.2 million, despite being undisclosed, some newspapers claim the final settlement sum was closer to £5 million!
This high profile matter sends a powerful message – an employer can face substantial negative publicity and despite confidentiality provisions the settlement terms may be leaked; and, individual employees can be personally liable for unlawful discrimination committed by them in the course of their employment.
On 8 August 2015 during a match against Swansea, already down to 10 men, one of Chelsea’s players appeared to be injured and the referee waived on Carneiro and John Fern (her accompanying physiotherapist). Under the rules of the Premier League if a player receives medical treatment he must leave the pitch, which meant the London side were left with only having nine players on the field.
Mourinho was alleged to have used derogatory language towards Carneiro, he publicly criticised her and Fern’s actions, and subsequently removed them from match day duties. In September Carneiro resigned from her employment with Chelsea.
To claim constructive unfair dismissal an employee must have more than two years’ service and, rather than being dismissed by the employer, the employee must be able to show that they were forced to resign due to the employer’s conduct. The compensatory award for constructive unfair dismissal is capped at the lower of the employee’s gross annual salary or £78,962.
Carneiro’s claims for sex discrimination and victimisation would have been the bigger concern for Mourinho and Chelsea with the potential damages (which include financial loss and compensation for injury to feelings) being uncapped. To be successful in her claim for sex discrimination Carneiro would need to have shown that she suffered detrimental treatment on the grounds of her sex. Also, since it was alleged that Mourinho in his capacity as manager had unlawfully discriminated against Carneiro, under the Equality Act 2010 he could have been found personally liable and face a substantial pay out.
Due to the unwavering support of their followers and substantial commercial relationships, Chelsea Football Club and Mourinho may not be overly concerned by the level of negative publicity or the substantial pay out. However, for the vast majority of companies the fact that an employment tribunal is a public forum (and the potential publicity) should be a strong consideration when deciding whether to contest or settle a claim; and, individual employees should be aware that, irrespective of their status, if they unlawfully discriminate they could find themselves subject to a claim and potentially be personally liable for any award.