Football player Jonas Gutierrez recently won his disability discrimination claim against Newcastle United FC after being dropped as a result of his battle with testicular cancer.
This result serves as a warning to all employers that they have the same duties and responsibilities toward all employees, no matter what their circumstance.
Gutierrez sued the Premier League club after managers told him he would no longer feature in the club’s future just two months after he had surgery.
The midfielder said the club did not play him after that so that he did not reach the 80 games needed to trigger a one-year extension of his contract. He was released by Newcastle FC last summer when his contract expired.
ELAS Business Support Consultant Emma O’Leary says:
“This case is the perfect example of an employer failing to make reasonable adjustments for a disabled employee, and just because it is a Premier League football club, this did not relieve Newcastle United FC of that duty. In fact, the club owes the same duties to a disabled person as any other employer no matter who they are.
“Cancer is automatically considered a disability under the Equality Act 2010 and Gutierrez was diagnosed with testicular cancer in 2013. The tribunal found the club had discriminated against Gutierrez following his diagnosis. This is because once he had been given the all clear, was back to being match fit and had returned to the club, he was told that he no longer featured in its future plans – despite having maintained his place in the starting line up on the first team without difficulty for five years previously.
“The club had also failed to make reasonable adjustments to the requirement for him to play a certain number of games to trigger his extended deal, as his disability made it more difficult for him to be selected (due to absences for his cancer treatment), which put him at a substantial disadvantage against his non-disabled colleagues.”
“Such outcomes are not only financially damaging for employers – in this case Newcastle United FC – they are also detrimental to the reputation of the business and this is why firms should take steps to mitigate the risks of facing an employment tribunal.
“They can do so by having a sound grasp of the Equality Act, as well as robust HR, employment law and occupational health measures in place that are conveyed clearly across the business. Taking these steps will ensure companies are in the best position possible when it comes to determining whether a given employee is disabled and what reasonable adjustments may be required.”
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