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Laso case: Can they fire me after suffering a heart attack? | Business

The dismissal of Pablo Laso as coach of the Real Madrid basketball team could have taken on the overtones of a judicial soap opera. Finally, after several days of mixed declarations and airs of war, the former coach and the club have reached an agreement to amicably terminate the Basque coach’s contract, after he suffered a myocardial infarction. If the conflict between the company and the employee had broken out, part of the legal community is convinced that the dismissal would have been revoked in court.

The debate that emerged this week on the issue has brought together, in short, three positions among the experts. On the first front are those who defend that the white club would have been entitled to dismiss the coach against his will, given the high level of stress and exposure required by the position. According to this thesis, Real Madrid can heal in health and do without the coach due to the fear of possible relapses. On a second flank, there are those who argue that a heart attack is not a sufficient reason to support a dismissal, the most burdensome of all business decisions.

In a third watchtower are those who go a step further and defend that the dismissal of the Basque coach would have been discriminatory. In this way, a judge could force Real Madrid to reinstate the coach under the same conditions, and also to compensate him for the moral damages suffered.

There are a variety of opinions. For Alberto Novoa, partner of the firm Ceca Magán, the dismissal of the former coach would seem to be declared inadmissible in court because “there is no justifiable cause for his termination that we know of, beyond the ‘medical reasons’ put forward in the statement issued for the club.” The root of the matter is knowing when it is possible to fire a person for a health problem. This may be the case, for example, of a store clerk who gradually develops blindness; or a telemarketer who loses the ability to speak after a stroke. Companies cannot fire brave women in situations like these. The bosses must have a medical report of “aptitude evaluation” that shows that the operator is no longer fit to work in the entity, explains Alfredo Aspra, partner of Labormatters Lawyers.

To opt for expulsion, the loss of skills must be total and for all tasks. This was recalled by the Catalan justice in 2017, when confirming the inadmissibility of the dismissal of a factory worker who suffered a myocardial infarction. A medical report saying to avoid stressful tasks is not enough to definitively remove an employee, the judges said.

Likewise, management must do everything possible to adapt the position to the needs of the sick employee before deciding to dismiss. “Only if the necessary adaptations were impossible or an excessive burden for the company would it be possible to resort to the figure of objective dismissal due to unexpected ineptitude”, Aspra points out. In this sense, the lawyer believes that Real Madrid would have done their homework by proposing a rest period to the former coach, respecting the economic conditions, and a new assessment of the case in the spring.

subjective assessments

For his part, Fabián Valero, managing partner of Zeres Abogados, is among those who defend that the forced replacement of the Madrid coach would have been discriminatory because it was based on “the appearance that his illness could be incapacitating.” “Real Madrid would not have reports that support said disability beyond the subjective assessments of the club and its doctors. That appearance of dismissal for disability would be discriminatory and would violate the right to equality, which is a fundamental right, and therefore the dismissal would be null”, explains the labor lawyer.

The truth is that it would not be the first time that a judge knocks down a dismissal under this umbrella. In 2021, without going any further, the Superior Court of Justice of Galicia revoked the dismissal of a freight driver who suffered an accident and, after receiving a visit from his boss at the hospital, was fired a few hours later due to the apparent seriousness of the accident. his wounds. The Galician justice annulled the dismissal because, he said, requiring a long recovery is not a reason to dismiss.

The withdrawal of an athlete due to health problems is not a bed of roses. In cases like this, such as the heart attack that Dinamo Bucharest coach Eugen Neagoe suffered during a match, it is common for the professional and the club to reach “some kind of agreement that satisfies them when it comes to terminating the employment relationship”, so that the blood does not reach the river, explains the lawyer Alberto Novoa. Another amicable option may be to “put the relationship on hold until the coach or player is fully recovered.”

Finally, the Laso affair has ended in agreement. But, if it had gone to court, the possible compensation for the former coach would have been substantial if he accepted the thesis of discrimination. “Annulment would entail reinstatement in the position and the payment of all salaries not received, as well as compensation for the damages caused that could reach up to 225,018 euros,” says Fabián Valero. Although the lawyer clarifies that, in view of the moral, reputational and professional damage caused and the club’s resources, “it would be necessary to assess whether this amount is really compensatory.”

a special contract

Coaches and professional sports players are not ordinary workers. Their status as athletes confers them a special employment status regulated by a 1985 rule. “This consideration is due to the special characteristics of the position,” explains Santiago Nebot, a lawyer at Sport&Music Law and Nebot Paez Abogados. For example, a peculiarity of these contracts is that “they are always signed for a certain duration,” says the expert. Likewise, it is common to include termination agreements in case of not reaching “certain sporting achievements”, explains Alfredo Aspra, partner of Labormatters. It is legal for a club to dismiss its coach if it does not reach a certain number of victories, if it does not qualify for certain competitions or if it does not reach a minimum number of finals.

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