The employment tribunal into the dismissal of former Chelsea team doctor Eva Carneiro has got underway, with the doctor’s legal team claiming she heard the former manager, José Mourinho, call her a ‘daughter of a whore’.
Carneiro, who is 42-years-old, has launched a claim of unfair dismissal against the West London club as well as a claim of sex discrimination and harassment against the new Manchester United boss. The claim revolves around a moment during the Blues’ opening fixture of last season against Swansea at Stamford Bridge.
Eden Hazard, the Chelsea midfielder, went down injured towards the end of the game and the referee called for the Chelsea medical team to enter the field of play and offer him treatment several times. Carneiro and Jon Fearn, the club’s physiotherapist, eventually did so. Because the then defending Premier League champions’ goalkeeper, Thibaut Courtois, had already been sent off for a tackle on Swansea’s Bafetimbi Gomis it meant that Chelsea would be down to ten men, as the rules state that a player must leave the field of play after receiving treatment.
After the game Mourinho referred to both of them as ‘impulsive and naive’ for going onto the pitch to treat Hazard before demanding that Carneiro be demoted from her duties as the first-team doctor. The tribunal will last for around two weeks and is expected to be somewhat embarrassing for Chelsea and the self-proclaimed ‘Special One’, with texts and emails sent between the club’s most powerful members expected to be revealed.
Carneiro’s legal team made the bare bones of their case quite clear with their opening argument, saying, “This is a tale of two employees: one good, one bad. The bad employee forces the good employee out of the job of her dreams and the employer does nothing to stop it. The bad employee berates, sexually harasses and demotes the good employee for carrying out her professional duties”.
Unsurprisingly, Mourinho and his former club deny the claims made by Carneiro and her team. It is believed that the precise words Mourinho said in the heat of the moment will come to form a crucial part of the evidence. Carneiro claims he called her a “filha da puta”, which means ‘daughter of a whore’, whilst Mourinho claims he shouted “filho da puta”, which means ‘son of a whore’ and is simply a Portuguese expletive.
Mary O’Rourke QC, on behalf of Carneiro, said, “She’s a Portuguese speaker. It was not filho da puta, it was filha da puta … you say filha da puta when you are denigrating a woman. He is saying it to the back of the claimant who is doing something he didn’t like … that is the context”.
Daniel Stilitz QC, who is representing Chelsea in the case, denied that and said, “Filho da puta is a phrase he often uses…There is no sexist connotation”. He suggested that Mourinho was known for using the phrase around Chelsea’s training ground and during the club’s matches if things weren’t going well.
Carneiro’s claims are about more than just that one moment, however. She also alleges that Mourinho abused her when she went onto the pitch to treat a head injury during a game against Fiorentina a few days before, shouting, “Now we’re going to shit ourselves. Every time someone goes down with a head injury we’re going to shit ourselves”.
The doctor felt that there was a general attitude of sexism at the Stamford Bridge club, with no club suit provided for her, a lack of changing facilities for females, regular ‘sexually explicit comments’ made towards her by colleagues and that the club failed to do anything to stop sexist chants that were aimed at her when Chelsea played away to West Ham and Manchester United.
Carneiro’s lawyers claim that Mourinho told the head of Chelsea’s communications department, Steve Atkins, that in the wake of the Swansea game he didn’t even want her on the bench for future matches and that he said, “She works in academy team or ladys team, not with me”. There’s also an allegation form Carneiro that Chelsea director Marina Granovskaia sent her a text after the Swansea game saying, “People who know, know you did nothing wrong. People who know José also know he is ranting… I don’t think there’s a salary that allows public attack”.
A lot of the case will come down to who said what and what was done in the aftermath of Mourinho’s comments during and after the Swansea game. In the weeks that followed Bruce Buck, the Chelsea chairman, told her she would not be involved in first team duties and that she could only return to the club in ‘an adjusted role’, leading her to resign her position. Chelsea feel that if she hadn’t resigned she’d still be at the club now and that her ‘provocative’ attitude and ‘refusal to engage in steps to rebuild her relationship with Mourinho’ is what has caused the problems.
Chelsea’s legal team will argue that Carneiro’s claims that his language was sexist are false and that he merely used the sort of language he often used in similar circumstances. They said, “The claimant’s suggestion that Mr Mourinho’s language was gendered and targeted specifically at her is plainly unwarranted in the light of the footage. Indeed she did not allege that the language used was discriminatory until well after the event. Mr Mourinho’s language was, again, far from unusual in the context”.
Chelsea’s lawyers suggested during their opening argument that Carneiro told Granovskaia that she would ‘draw a line’ under what had gone if she were given a 40% pay rise, a bonus scheme, a ‘substantial compensation payment’ for the distress she’d been caused and was allowed to return to the bench. Their suggestion is that the club had already begun to be concerned by her work performance before the incident had even occurred.
It was felt that Carneiro was ‘pre-occupied’ with ‘developing her profile’ instead of carrying out her duty as the club doctor. She posed for photos, signed autographs, nominated a first-team player after she did the ‘ice bucket challenge’, tried to sit behind the manager in televised games and was even ‘secretly briefing against Chelsea’ to some members of the media. She was instructed not to use social media after the event but did so anyway, going on Facebook to thank the public for their ‘overwhelming support’.
Mourinho, who was sacked by Chelsea in December after leading the club to their worst start to a top-flight campaign since the 1960s, was cleared by the Football Association of using discriminatory language towards Carneiro but afterwards Dame Heather Rabbatts, an independent board member of the FA, criticised them for not interviewing the doctor herself during its investigation. The hearing will continue for the next two weeks, with more information expected during that time.