16/07/2012

By Daniel Hunter

A leading employment law expert believes that the high profile racism case involving John Terry highlights how football can often operate very differently from the rest of society when it comes to dealing with issues of race discrimination in the workplace.

According to Tom Flanagan, Partner and Head of Employment at national law firm Irwin Mitchell, the way in which some football clubs deal with this type of situation contrasts sharply with what most organisations would do when dealing with an employee accused of a similar act.

”Football sometimes appears to cocoon itself from the 'real world'," he said. "This is a case of a senior employee allegedly racially abusing an employee of another business at that employee’s place of work in a high profile and public setting.

"He appears to accept that he made the remarks and is putting up a technical defence to the specific criminal charge which he is entitled to do. Whilst the FA's rules and regulations can complicate the situation, the club, as the employer, should still conduct its own investigation and reach its own conclusions about its employee’s conduct as an employee, regardless of the outcome of the criminal trial.

“It would not be unusual for an employee in John Terry’s position to be suspended pending the outcome of the investigation. He could also be, disciplined and even dismissed, perhaps for bringing his employer into disrepute, whether or not he was guilty of the criminal charge and even if that case has not yet been heard."

Drawing a comparison with other high profile professions, Mr. Flanagan added: “If one wanted to look for a parallel, it could be found in a high value senior employee where the employer is reluctant to investigate or discipline because of the perceived cost to the business of removing that employee. If an employer, such as an investment bank, acted in that way, it is likely to attract both public and legal criticism. Why should football be any different?”

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