Chelsea FC’s doctor, Eva Carneiro, recently resigned following a dispute with the club in which she was stripped of her first team duties and publicly upbraided by manager Jose Mourinho. Carneiro had treated an injured Chelsea player on the pitch at the end of a game, ordinarily one of her key duties, but an act which had angered Mourinho. Following her demotion, Carneiro worked in protest for a few weeks and then resigned.
Carneiro will have a strong claim for constructive dismissal. A constructive dismissal occurs when the employer acts in such a way as to seriously undermine the employment relationship with its employee, effectively declaring an intention to no longer be bound by the employment contract. In sanctioning Carneiro for carrying out her duties and then demoting her publicly and without just cause Chelsea appear to have acted in exactly this way.
Carneiro will be able to recover any outstanding money owed to her under her contract of employment in one lump sum (known as a wrongful dismissal), which, in the world of Premiership football, is likely to be sizeable. She will also have a claim for unfair dismissal from which she can recover damages for loss of earnings from any subsequent period of unemployment.
Damages for unfair dismissal are ordinarily limited to one year’s loss of earnings. Interestingly, though, the story now includes an allegation of sex discrimination, that in his foul-mouthed outburst Mourinho referred to her in sexist terms. If Carneiro is able to prove that her constructive dismissal was tainted with discrimination her damages will be unlimited, leaving Chelsea with a very costly bill indeed.
Written by Jack Feeny, barrister at No5 Chambers
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