Arsenal Women have been fined £50,000 and ordered to send members of staff on an education programme after the club’s decision in 2014 to dismiss an autistic youth coach was deemed in breach of FA rules on discrimination.
The Women’s Super League 2019 winners had denied the dismissal of U15 coach Robin Carpenter was an act of discrimination by reason of disability, but an independent regulatory commission concluded that Arsenal “treated him less favourably than they would have treated an employee without disability”.
Carpenter appealed his dismissal in an employment tribunal and was paid £17,200 (before tax) after reaching a settlement agreement with the club in May 2015.
Arsenal insisted that agreement was made for “commercial reasons” as opposed to acceptance of discriminatory conduct.
Carpenter was head coach of the Arsenal Women’s U15 team for the 2013-14 season, during which he approached the technical director of the club’s centre of excellence, John Bayer, to let him know that he believed he was suffering from autism.
Bayer, who had appointed Carpenter in 2007, passed on the matter to the club’s development manager, Clare Wheatley, before the three met in May 2014 to discuss how autism might be affecting Carpenter’s professional and personal life.
Five days later, the three of them met again, and Carpenter was informed by Bayer that he had been dismissed from his role with four weeks’ notice and would not be engaged by the club in any other role going forward.
Arsenal Women accepted that the decision to dismiss Carpenter was made by Wheatley, who had acted following consultation with Bayer and having sought advice from the club’s human resources department.
Carpenter’s condition was confirmed by a diagnosis in November 2014.
An employment tribunal hearing over the dismissal was set for May 18, 2015, but the club reached a settlement with Carpenter on the day the tribunal was set to begin.
Wheatley and two members of the club’s human resources department have been ordered to undergo an education programme in correlation to discrimination, under the supervision of the FA.
Sources: Sky Sports News and Daily Mirror.