Chelsea doctor Eva Carneiro could have grounds to launch claims of constructive dismissal and sex discrimination if her role is changed as a result of criticism from manager Jose Mourinho.
That is the view of lawyer Glenn Hayes as the fall-out from Mourinho’s weekend outburst following his side’s 2-2 draw with Swansea continues.
The Portuguese was furious after first-team doctor Carneiro went on to the pitch at Stamford Bridge to treat Eden Hazard, in the process momentarily reducing the 10-man Blues to nine players, later describing the actions of medical staff as “impulsive and naive” and suggesting they needed to “understand the game”.
Press Association Sport understands Carneiro is to retain her current job title, but will no longer be involved in matches or training sessions, and if that proves to be the case, Mr Hayes, a partner and employment law specialist with solicitors Irwin Mitchell, believes she could have grounds to take legal action.
He said: “It’s not entirely clear, the reasons Mourinho said what he has said, but if he said that based on the fact that she’s a woman and not a man and she feels uncomfortable because of that - and I can see why that potentially could be the case, particularly if she has been treated differently because of her sex - then effectively she could bring a claim against both Mourinho and the club.
“If fundamentally her role is changed by virtue of the fact that she has gone on to do her job and he has criticised her for an apparent lack of understanding of the game, if that can be linked to her sex, then there’s a claim there, from her point of view.
“It is difficult to know the exact situation regarding the decisions made by Chelsea.
“What we do know from previous cases however, is that football tends to exist in a vacuum when it comes to employment issues - and it is safe to say, from reports, that if this situation emerged in another sector, there could be implications for those involved.
“For example, as it could be argued that speaking out about her publicly has damaged the implied duty of trust and confidence between the parties, there could potentially be a claim for constructive unfair dismissal.”
Mourinho is expected to face questions on the Carneiro situation for the first time on Friday.
Chelsea have called a press conference with the Portuguese to preview Sunday’s trip to Manchester City, at 12.30pm at their Cobham training ground.
Mr Hayes said Chelsea could also justify taking action against their employee, including demotion, if they were able to show she had ignored instructions.
He said: “If there’s a management instruction - and I suppose in theory in the context of that game, Mourinho is her manager - and he says to her, ‘Don’t go on’ and she ignores it, then in theory, it’s gross misconduct because a refusal to obey a reasonable management instruction is gross misconduct in most people’s disciplinary policies.
“The difficulty in the situation in relation to her is, is it a reasonable management instruction, because obviously she owes professional obligations as part of her medical expertise to look after the players, so they may well override what may well otherwise be a reasonable instruction.”
The Premier League Doctors’ Group has also expressed its concern over the ongoing situation and says a reduction in Carneiro’s role would be “unjust in the extreme”.
Meanwhile, both Carneiro and referee Michael Oliver, who summoned her on to the pitch, have received the backing of former match officials’ chief Keith Hackett.
Hackett wrote in his You Are The Ref blog: “The referee carried out his role to the letter and should be applauded for his actions in dealing with an injured player in line with the law.
“Over the years, the restart of games in these situations has changed and, instead of a contested drop ball, we see the team of the injured player kicking the ball uncontested back towards the opposition goalkeeper.
“The doctor was clearly doing her job and has rightly won the sympathy of most people involved with the game.”
Carneiro joined Chelsea in February 2009, having previously worked at the British Olympic Medical Institute and with England Women’s Football and UK Athletics.
The doctor thanked people for their support on Sunday, posting on Facebook: ‘’I would like to thank the general public for their overwhelming support. Really very much appreciated.’’
That post attracted in excess of 22,000 likes.