Former Newcastle United midfielder Jonas Gutierrez was dropped by the Magpies because of his cancer diagnosis, an employment tribunal has concluded. The Argentine midfielder, who was diagnosed with testicular cancer in October 2013, has sued the Premier League club for a figure in the region of £2m ($2.8m) on the grounds of disability discrimination.
The tribunal also said Newcastle made it impossible for Gutierrez, who joined the club in 2008, to trigger an appearance-based contract extension. Under the terms of his agreement, Gutierrez needed to make 80 Premier League starts over the length of his four-year contract in order to activate the extension.
But because of his cancer diagnosis, Gutierrez had only 121 possible games instead of 152 to earn his extended deal. The tribunal ruled the Premier League club had failed to make reasonable adjustments in light of his health situation.
"It was in essence more difficult for the claimant to achieve the required number of games because in the periods of time that he was not absent for treatment or rehabilitation he had to be more frequently selected as a proportion of the total number of games available than his non disabled counterparts," the ruling said. "We conclude that this was a substantial (more than minor or trivial) disadvantage."
What's more, the tribunal found that Gutierrez – who "had maintained his place in the starting line-up without difficulty for five years" and now plays for Deportivo La Coruna in Spain – was dropped by his former club because of his illness.
It read: "Just over two weeks after the claimant returned to the club in November 2013 following his diagnosis and treatment, and at a point when he was match fit and returning to action he was told that he no longer featured in the club's future plans. We conclude that the decision to drop the claimant was because of the claimant's cancer."
By contrast, the tribunal dismissed Gutierrez's claims of unfavourable treatment and harassment related to disability. A remedy hearing is set to be held in due course and the issue of compensation is to be discussed.