Woman Banned from Speaking Native Language at Work Wins £5,000

A woman who was banned from speaking Polish with her colleagues in the workplace has been granted over £5,000 by an employment tribunal.

Magdalena Konieczna was subjected to racial harassment at Whitelink Seafoods in Aberdeen after she spoke to Polish staff – who could not speak English – in their native tongue. Allegedly, her manager made a number of remarks that were offensive to some members of staff.

An employment tribunal heard that Ms. Konieczna, who works as an HR and payroll administrator at the company, along with other foreign employees were told to speak English while at work, despite the fact many could not. According to Ms. Konieczna, this effectively meant that often she would be speaking English to her colleagues even though they did not understand a word she was saying.

As a result, she argued that her employers were in breach of health and safety law as employees were not always informed of what was occurring due to the language barrier and the fact that not everyone could understand instructions.

Discrimination in the Workplace

The employment tribunal also heard that at one point, Ms. Konieczna had to interview someone who could only speak Polish but had to use a translator to avoid breaking employment rules.

The rule to only speak English also applied to break times meaning that employees had to speak English even when they were not on the clock.

In a written judgment, the tribunal states: “The respondent may not have intended the rule to apply at break times, but that was what the Polish employees believed and any confusion in that regard was due to a failure on the part of the respondent to communicate clearly the terms of the rule, why it was being introduced and how and where it was to be applied.”

The judgment adds: “It was natural for the Ms. Konieczna to speak Polish to non-English speaking Polish workers in the factory, but after the rule was introduced she had to speak English to all the Polish employees whatever their level of ability to speak English.

“She often found it difficult to apply the rule as it was not practical to do so, especially when she was speaking to a Polish employee who could not speak English and who instinctively would speak Polish to her.”

However, it the tribunal rejected the fact that she had suffered racial discrimination in the workplace.

Discrimination Advice Aberdeen: Contact Us

If you have been discriminated in the workplace due to your gender or your racial background, you could be entitled to take legal action. Our team of expert solicitors can offer you legal advice and representation during a settlement agreement or at an employment tribunal.

To begin your employment claim, contact our team of expert solicitors today using our online contact form.


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