Will Chelsea doctor claim constructive dismissal following resignation?

In the wake of Eva Carneiro’s high profile resignation from her role as club doctor at Chelsea FC, Darryll Thomas, employment law associate at Midlands law firm The Wilkes Partnership, considers the merits of her bringing a claim for constructive dismissal.

“Ms Carneiro, it has been reported, left her role at Chelsea FC in the wake of high profile criticism from Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho of her actions during the opening weekend of the season.

“Chelsea had already been reduced to 10 men when star player Eden Hazard went down clutching his head and signalling to the bench. Ms Carneiro and club physiotherapist, Jon Fearn entered the field of play to treat Hazard. Subsequently Hazard was forced to temporarily leave the game, reducing Chelsea to nine players, having already suffered a red card earlier in the game.

“As a result of the incident, not only was Ms Carneiro publicly criticised by Mr Mourinho, in particular accusing her of being naïve, she was effectively demoted from club first team duties, including club training sessions. It is unclear what has happened in the intervening period behind the scenes. However, following legal advice, Ms Carneiro has this week resigned her position.

“If Ms Carneiro decides to bring a claim for constructive dismissal, she would have to demonstrate three things:

  1. That her employer committed a repudiatory (in other words, a very serious) breach of contract. This has to be an act that is substantial and strikes to the root of the relationship.
  2. That her resignation was in direct response to that breach.
  3. That she has not waived the breach by continuing the employment relationship.

“In claims of this nature, the most common breach cited is that of the term of trust and confidence, which is implied in all contracts of employment by law. It would appear that the comments of the Chelsea manager, made in such a high profile manner, were entirely disproportionate and humiliating for Ms Carneiro, particularly when considering they were made in relation to her professional judgment. On that basis it would appear that the actions of Mr Mourinho, and in turn Chelsea FC, could be considered to be of such sufficient magnitude as to constitute a repudiatory breach of contract. There would appear to be little doubt that Ms Carneiro has in turn resigned her position in direct response to this breach. Whilst some six weeks have passed since the incident, it is likely that there were various processes conducted behind the scenes, perhaps a grievance from Ms Carneiro, that will mean she has not waived the breach at the point of her resignation.

“It is likely that the club will want to avoid having such a high profile matter played out in an employment tribunal, and if it hasn’t already, it may well be that this matter concludes swiftly with the parties entering into a settlement agreement.”

For further information or to discuss any employment law issues, please contact Darryll Thomas on 0121 733 8000 or email [email protected]

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