Luis Suarez could be facing more than just a ban from playing football after his alleged bite on an opponent during the World Cup – he finds himself in breach of contract.
That’s the view of Glenn Hayes, Employment Law Partner at Irwin Mitchell, who thinks Liverpool, Suarez’s club, have a difficult decision ahead of them.
He told HR Grapevine: “The general position is that Suarez’s behaviour in the work environment would usually represent gross misconduct (given that it could be classified as an assault) and would usually result in the dismissal of an employee in most circumstances.”
However, Suarez was technically not involved in club activities at the time, being away with Uruguay, and therefore the matter becomes one of reputation.
Hayes says: “If the matter has occurred outside of work and is not connected to the issue for the employer would usually be whether the actions of the employee had brought the business into disrepute.
“In the case of Suarez this could easily be argued – particularly as it is the second time an incident like this has happened whilst he has been with the club (and 3rd time overall) and the Anfield Club stood by the player last time despite risk to their reputation and despite his lengthy ban.”
However, football clubs are not typical employers. In a results driven business Suarez was the star performer in the club’s best season for years – with his performances leading to rumours of other clubs trying to temp the Reds to part with their star asset.
Hayes continued: “With Barcelona and Real Madrid apparently planning to make significant bids for the player after the World Cup, the decision is whether they are willing to dismiss a player and waive a potential huge transfer fee.
“Much will depend on what punishment FIFA hands down but if the ban is sufficiently long so that Suarez is unable to fulfil his contract, this so called ‘frustration of contract’ could lead to claims by Liverpool for breach of contract on the part of Suarez.”
There have been cases in the past where players have been sued for contact issues. As Hayes explains: “In the case of Adrian Mutu, a player sacked by Chelsea in 2004 following a positive drugs test, he was forced to pay £14million to Chelsea for failure to fulfil his contract.
“Even if this was the same sort of situation for Suarez, this is nothing like the £80 or 90million being discussed as a possible bid for his services by the Spanish giants. It will be interesting to see how the situation develops over the next few days and what stance Liverpool take in relation to their highest profile and most valued employee.”
Image courtesy of flickr user Nic-Taylor-Photography
And the "told HR Grapevine" bit - are you going to admit you didn't actually speak to the lawyer?
Wed, 25 Jun 2014 1:00pm BST
Or, you could offer a more balanced view Davy and realise that these sorts of stories are a great way of helping non-HR professionals that we all work with to understand the relevance of HR and contractual issues - a method I use for keeping my LT focussed on this type of issue (even though they are not dealing with footballer-scale budgets and settlements).
And by the way, if you wanted to be grammatically correct you should have said "actually spoken to someone" ...
Get it together Davy
Wed, 25 Jun 2014 12:45pm BST
You can only put told HR Grapevine when you've actually spoke to someone. The exact Glenn Hayes quotes are around everywhere.
Again another sport story that has no relevance to HR departments in UK/global companies. If you're an HRD and don't know how to deal with an employee who bit someone you shouldn't be in a job.