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Posted by on in Gender Discrimination
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Woman Banned from Speaking Native Language Awarded £5,000

A Polish woman has been awarded £5,000 after she was banned from speaking her native language with colleagues in the workplace.

An employment tribunal ruled that Magdalena Konieczna was subjected to racial harassment in her workplace in Aberdeen in what could be a landmark case. The worker had spoken to other members of staff in Polish as some of them were unable to speak or fully understand instructions in English.

However, her HR manager banned her from speaking unless it was in English. Nicol Hosie argued that speaking in Polish in the workplace was “more likely to create a greater health and safety risk than reduce it”.

The ban on speaking Polish applied to break times and at any time when in the workplace.

Racial Harassment in the Workplace

Ms Konieczna argued that this was not the case as workers would not be aware of a danger unless it was said in Polish. As a result, Ms Konieczna, who worked in the HR department, often found herself speaking to Polish workers in English even though they were unable to understand what she was saying. As a result of the decision from her employer, she was awarded just over £5,000 for racial harassment.

In a written judgement it was found that: “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 added: “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.”

Despite the claim that she had suffered racial discrimination, the judgement ruled that she had been harassed rather than discriminated against.

Harassment and Discrimination in the Workplace: Taking Legal Action

If you have suffered harassment or discrimination in the workplace, you are legally entitled to take action. Many people fear that if they take legal action following harassment or unfair treatment in the workplace, they could lose their job. However, this is not the case. If you opt to take legal action and are then dismissed you can take employment action citing unfair dismissal.

If you believe you have been discriminated against in the workplace, it is important that you have some evidence to support your claim. This can range from a string of emails, voicemails or even witness statements speaking of your harassment.

Employment Solicitors Glasgow

If you have been discriminated against due to gender, age or race, harassed in the workplace or suffered any sort of discrimination, our team of expert solicitors can help. We understand how difficult it can be taking legal action, especially if it is against your employer or former employer. To begin legal proceedings or to find out if you could take legal action, contact our team using our online contact form.

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