Former Chelsea first team doctor Eva Carneiro has lodged a claim of constructive dismissal against her former employer.
Chelsea’s Premiere League defence started with a 2-2 draw against Swansea on the 8th August. Towards the closing stages of the game and with the scores already level Eden Hazard received an injury. After being motioned on to the pitch twice by the referee, Chelsea doctor Carneiro and head physio Jon Fearn ran on to the pitch to treat Hazard, who then had to leave the field temporarily.
As Chelsea were already down to ten players following the sending off of their goalkeeper this reduced the team to nine men. There were allegations that Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho verbally abused Carneiro at the side of the pitch for her actions, before going on to criticise his medical staff as “impulsive and naïve” in a post-match TV interview.
Following the game Mourinho removed Carneiro from the first team bench and the club told her that she was no longer required to attend matches or training sessions. She resigned from her position in September.
The matter had just about faded from the public eye last week when Carneiro raised a claim of constructive dismissal against the club.
What can we learn from the Chelsea doctor case?
Demoting an employee is possible but it can also be fraught with risk unless handled correctly. The Acas Code of Practice states that the normal sanctions available to an employer in a disciplinary case are either a written warning, a final written warning or a dismissal. You can only use demotion as a sanction against an employee if you have specifically worded it as such in their contract of employment.
If their is no provision in their contract of employment the employee is required to give their full agreement in order for you to demote them.
Employers also need to be careful of demotions in all but name. An employee claiming that their role has been downgraded is the cause of a significant number of constructive dismissal claims, even though no formal demotion has taken place. There may not be a change of job title or a cut in pay, but if you significantly alter your employee’s role and reduce their responsibilities it may appear to be a demotion all the same.
There are other factors in the Carneiro case; for example she is raising a separate claim against Mourinho regarding accusations of victimisation and discriminatory behaviour. Since Fearn does not appear to have suffered the same treatment as Carneiro she may have a valid point, but then their personal disciplinary records prior to the match in question are not public knowledge.
With the weight of the evidence apparently stacked in Carneiro’s favour the reigning champions, who have slumped to the worst title defence in Premier League history, may yet find their season going from bad to worse.