Business Law: Jonas Gutierrez v Newcastle United case highlights discrimination risks
PUBLISHED: 16:45 26 April 2016 | UPDATED: 16:45 26 April 2016
Former Newcastle United FC footballer Jonas Gutierrez has won a disability discrimination case against the club.
After a diagnosis of testicular cancer, Gutierrez took 18 months off to receive treatment and recover. When he made his return to the game in March 2015, it was claimed that, despite being in full health, he was frozen out by managers deliberately so that his contract wouldn’t have to be renewed.
Gutierrez launched his claim under the Equality Act 2010, under which it stipulates that it is unlawful to discriminate against workers because of disability, and the Employment Tribunal has now ruled in his favour.
Gutierrez claimed he had been frozen out of the first team squad in order for Newcastle to avoid having to offer him a £2million one-year extension to his contract.
He would have been automatically entitled to that extension if he had played a certain amount of games, but he suddenly found himself rarely used by his ex-boss Alan Pardew or his successor, John Carver.
The tribunal upheld claim of less favourable treatment and failure to make reasonable adjustments in light of his illness, although it rejected two other claims, one of unfavourable treatment as a result of his disability and one of harassment.
The verdict could see Newcastle pay in excess of £2million in compensation and is certainly a wake-up call for employers to engage best practice at all times.
It demonstrates that even the biggest Premier League clubs are not above the law and can’t escape their responsibilities. It also reflects just how far-reaching the nature of discrimination law is, and how important it is for employers to make sure they are aware of discriminatory practices and have clear policies in place to prevent falling foul of employment law.
It’s also an alert to employers on the potential for breaching discrimination legislation – and opening themselves up to huge financial penalties and bad publicity – when making decisions on bonus awards, promotions or appraisals.
Most importantly, it’s a warning that employers must promote fairness and equality amongst their workforce, whatever the industry, and adopt zero tolerance of discrimination of any kind.
If you are an employer concerned about discrimination matters, then please feel free to give us a call on 01473 229240. Alternatively, please email Lloyd Clarke on firstname.lastname@example.org .
:: Lloyd Clarke is head of employment law at Atwells.