Dr. Eva Carneiro's claims against Chelsea and Jose Mourinho: breaking down the legal issues
Further to Dr Eva Carneiro announcing her departure from Chelsea FC, this article examines what claims she may have against the club and/or Mr Mourinho for unfair dismissal and/or sexual discrimination. Whilst the authors are aware that Dr Carneiro and Jon Fearn were demoted by Chelsea at the same time this article specifically focus on the potential claims of Dr Carneiro.
The dispute in question involves Eva Carneiro, a highly qualified and well-respected medic, who until recently held the position of first team doctor at Chelsea Football Club. Having retained the position under four different managerial regimes, she has apparently felt compelled to leave Chelsea after being undermined and publicly insulted by the ‘Special One’ himself, Jose Mourinho.1 Her apparent wrongdoing? Performing her professional obligations and discharging her Hippocratic duties.2
The conflict between Mr Mourinho and Dr Carneiro arose following the recent 2-2 draw between Chelsea and Swansea. In the dying moments of the game, with Chelsea down to 10 men having had their goalkeeper sent off, Dr Carneiro and the team physiotherapist were called on to the pitch by the referee to treat the Chelsea player, Eden Hazard. In the post-match press conference (no doubt seeking to distract from a disappointing result), Mr Mourinho expressed his anger that the medical staff’s “hasty” actions had effectively reduced his side to 9 men and labelled them “impulsive and naïve”.3 He went on to say that “even if you are a kit man, doctor or secretary on the bench, you have to understand the game”4 (the inference being that Dr Carneiro did not).
Following the incident, Carneiro was stripped of first team duties, with The Guardian reporting: “she will no longer be on the sideline during training sessions and matches. She will not be at the team hotel, either. Mourinho is happy for her to remain as the first-team doctor, working out of an office at the training ground in Cobham”.5
It has also subsequently been alleged that Mr Mourinho called Dr Carneiro a “filha da puta”6 – Portuguese for ‘daughter of a whore’. The intense public interest surrounding these events has resulted in Dr Carneiro being subjected to unprecedented media scrutiny,7 with her photograph plastered across newspapers, stories sold about her sex life and her professionalism called into question.
Despite widespread criticism of his actions, Mr Mourinho continues to fight his corner, claiming that he and his staff “need disagreements to improve.”8 Negotiations between Dr Carneiro and the Club have not resolved matters, and the Football Medical Association (medical and science personnel in professional football) has recently confirmed that it has not been possible to achieve a satisfactory outcome and that the case will now be dealt with by Dr Carneiro’s lawyers.9
So, exactly what claims might Dr Carneiro have; and against whom could they be brought (Mr Mourinho and/or Chelsea FC)?
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James is a Partner in the Employment & Pensions team at international law firm Hill Dickinson LLP. Hill Dickinson has a strong reputation in sports law and provides specialist legal expertise to a broad portfolio of clients, including global events and brands, rights holders, sporting bodies, clubs, sponsors, agents and individual athletes. James has advised on employment law issues within the context of sports for many years, providing support to clients including football clubs and players, events organisers and professional bodies.
Nicola Holdsworth is a trainee solicitor in the Employment & Pensions team at international law firm Hill Dickinson LLP. Hill Dickinson has a strong reputation in sports law and provides specialist legal expertise to a broad portfolio of clients, including global events and brands, rights holders, sporting bodies, clubs, sponsors, agents and individual athletes.