Footballer hopes to ‘set a precedent for employees’ with discrimination case win

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An employment tribunal has found that footballer Jonas Gutierrez was released by Newcastle United due to a testicular cancer diagnosis. The 32-year-old midfielder said that the management ensured that he failed to make enough appearances on the pitch on purpose to avoid triggering a £2 million one-year contract extension.

The footballer claimed that billionaire Newcastle United owner Mike Ashley put pressure on managers to drop him because they considered his health a “liability”. He accused the club of freezing him out of their first team in back in 2013, when Mr Gutierrez first found symptoms of the illness.

Former manager Alan Pardew claimed Gutierrez wasn’t part of his future plans two years before he fell ill and the decision not to renew his contract was strictly a “footballing decision.” But a tribunal decided that Mr Gutierrez was less favourably treated by the relegation-threatened club as a result of his disability.

The tribunal also found Newcastle had not made “reasonable adjustments due to his disability”. However, the panel rejected claims he was forced out on loan to Norwich, with experts finding the move to be ‘consensual’.

Allegations of harassment – that Gutierrez was forced to train with the club’s under 21s – were also unsuccessful. Gutierrez called the ruling a “relief” but says he “can’t understand” the St James’ Park club’s treatment of him.

“I am so frustrated about that period,” the Argentine told BBC’s Sportshour. He added that he wants his case to set a precedent for employees, not just footballers, who face similar battles.“It’s important to leave a precedent for the future. No-one can go through this again – not footballers or any employees, that is more important.

“It made me learn a lot about life. Now we’re here I’m really happy about what I’ve been through. To be alive and be healthy is more important for me.”

In a statement, Newcastle said: “We recognise that the task facing the tribunal was a difficult one, but we are dismayed by its decision. We will now take time to consider the judgment in full and consult with our legal team to understand the options available to us.” A two-day remedy hearing to decide on a compensation figure will be held in coming weeks.

For advice on all Employment Law issues, please contact Richard Gvero, Joint Senior Partner and Head of Employment law.

Please note the contents of this blog are given for information only and must not be relied upon. Legal advice should always be sought in relation to specific circumstances.