Recently reported on the BBC Sport website were the events which unfolded concerning Manchester City player Carlos Tevez. His apparent refusal to play as a substitute for his team during their Champions League match against Bayern Munich last week has sparked controversy and debate among sports commentators and football fans alike. While the BBC’s report quotes Tevez as blaming “confusion on the bench” for his failure to play, recent media coverage detailing the reaction of the club’s outraged fans indicates that they believe a lack of loyalty is responsible.
Whatever his motive for refusing to play, the incident has led to Tevez’s suspension for a period of two weeks pending the club’s investigation into the affair. With reports citing alleged comments from manager Roberto Mancini that Tevez “will never play for Manchester City again”, his future at the club certainly appears to be tenuous.
This sort of behaviour by an employee can clearly pose problems for employers and it is important that they are aware of the circumstances in which it will be lawful for them to dismiss an employee who fails to follow instructions.
It is well-established that the failure of an employee to obey the lawful and reasonable orders of his employer may potentially justify their dismissal on conduct grounds. One serious act of misconduct may be sufficient to justify dismissal as might a series of acts which are less serious in nature. Importantly, when considering whether one act of misconduct justifies dismissal, employers should remember that gross misconduct involves either deliberate wrongdoing or gross negligence on the part of the employee. Many employers nowadays expressly include within their contracts of employment what is capable of constituting gross misconduct. Whilst this is useful in terms of clarity, it should be pointed out that the courts will not necessarily be persuaded that a particular act amounts to misconduct simply on the basis that it says this in the contract.
We will have to wait and see the outcome that is in store for Mr Tevez and his continued tenure with Manchester City. Much of course depends upon the outcome of the investigation. However, in the event that this confirms that his failure to play was a result of mere insubordination, it is likely that dismissal is an option which will be open to his employers.
It goes without saying that in any case where an employer is considering the dismissal of an employee, observing the correct procedural process is of paramount importance.