Dr Carneiro Blows the Final Whistle on Chelsea


4 mins

Posted on 24 Sep 2015

Update: 

Chelsea team doctor, Dr Carneiro, is believed to have resigned following her public dressing down by Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho six weeks ago. 

Background:

Mr Mourinho reacted angrily when Dr Carneiro and the team physiotherapist went on to the field of play to treat an injured player at the referee’s request. In addition to his angry behaviour pitch-side, Mr Mourinho was critical of Dr Carneiro and her colleague in comments he made after the match, suggesting that she did not understand the game. 

Dr Carneiro was reportedly due to return to work last week following the incident which resulted in her being demoted from the front bench. However, she appears to have decided not to return and is said to be considering a constructive dismissal claim. 

The sporting and medical communities have been vocal in their support of Dr Carneiro, pointing out that medical staff are obliged to go on to the pitch when requested by the referee. They have also emphasised the doctor’s duty of care to the player.

Options:

If Dr Carneiro’s decides to bring a constructive dismissal claim, it appears to have good prospects of success. By interfering with her professional judgment, publicly undermining her and demoting her from the front bench, Mr Mourinho is likely to have acted in breach the implied term of trust and confidence. It is also possible that he may have acted in breach of express terms of the employment contract, if, for example, her contract states that working on the front bench is a core duty or if there was no contractual power to suspend her from her duties. 

There may be an argument that by waiting six weeks before resigning, Dr Carneiro waived the breach of contract and lost the right to claim constructive dismissal. But this should not be a problem if she made it clear that she was reserving her rights whilst she considered her position.

Constructive Dismissal or Whistleblowing?

Depending on her losses and how easy it is to find alternative employment, Dr Carneiro’s constructive dismissal claim could be worth in the region of £80,000. However, it may be better for her to bring a whistleblowing claim, where there is no upper limit on the amount of compensation an employment tribunal can award.

Dr Carneiro might have alleged that Mr Mourinho’s instruction was unlawful or that he had instructed her to breach a legal/medical duty, making her subsequent demotion and constructive dismissal unlawful and automatically unfair on whistleblowing grounds.

Whilst she would also need to be able to show she reasonably believed that the disclosure (was in the public interest, this is unlikely to pose a significant hurdle in a case such as this where a player’s health and safety was potentially at risk.

Conclusion:

This is a sad day for women in football and for industries in general seeking to promote gender balance in the workforce. Football is the most popular team sport for women in England and yet the number of women who play at least once a week continues to decline, whilst the number of men playing is on the increase. Only 0.6% of women play football at least once a week, compared to 9.8% of men. There are only 11 countries in Europe where women referee matches in the top division. Elsewhere in industry, there are 8 times more male engineers than female and women are also significantly underrepresented in finance and technology .

Dr Carnerio was the highest-profile woman doctor in the Premier League and one of the few very senior women in the game. Her departure can only have a negative impact on the participation of women in the word of football.

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