Business Law: Will Oakes on why discrimination complaints need to be treated seriously
IN what is believed to be the first case of its kind brought by a professional footballer, an Employment Tribunal has ruled that former Gillingham Football Club striker Mark McCammon was unfairly dismissed and racially discriminated against.
Mr McCammon, a former Barbados international who was dismissed from the League Two side for alleged misconduct, claimed that he and other black players at the club were treated differently from white players.
Mr McCammon cited a number of examples which he claimed showed that he was treated less favourably. He claimed that he had been ordered to come into the ground amid treacherous and snowy driving conditions whilst some white players were told they were not required.
He also claimed that the club refused to pay private medical bills to help him regain his fitness following injury, instead offering him the same operation on the NHS rather than privately, and that he was fined two weeks’ wages when he paid a visit to a private consultant. In contrast, he said that a white team mate was flown to Dubai for treatment by a renowned physiotherapist at the club’s expense.
Mr McCammon also told tribunal in Ashford that during an injury spell he was ordered to stay behind at the club for four hours longer than the other injured and non-injured players on the “strict instructions” of Mr Scally, the club’s chairman, adding that he had been put “through hell” at the club and had not been given an answer as to why he was treated differently to other players.
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In giving its ruling the tribunal stated that “Mr McCammon raised a legitimate complaint of race discrimination, which the tribunal found that Mr Scally had discounted from the start as being without merit. Mr Scally did not bother to investigate the complaint and ultimately dismissed him because of it.”
It is trite comment to say that the different treatment of Mr McCammon on the grounds of his race is deplorable; that is a given. However, having subjected the player to this treatment the club further let him down by failing to listen to him, to engage with him and to try to address his concerns.
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The very grave consequence of this failing is that Gillingham Football Club has now been branded, in certain quarters, as a racist institution which, of course, it is unlikely to be.
Attwells’ offers a free no-obligation initial appointment so that as an employer you can understand the obligations on you in investigating and dealing with complaints of discrimination.
: : Will Oakes is a lawyer with Attwells Solicitors