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Instructing an employee to speak English ‘was not discriminatory’

Posted: 11th February 2016   In: Business Employment, Individual Employment

A company had not discriminated against an employee by telling her that she had to speak English while at work.

That was the decision of the Employment Tribunal in the case of a Russian born woman who started working for a company involved in testing products on animals.

The company became concerned at the woman’s behaviour, which included leaving her work station to make phone calls in Russian. Her managers began to suspect that she might be an animal rights infiltrator.

The company informed her that for security reasons, she would have to speak English while at work so that her managers could understand what she was saying.

She brought a claim saying that she had been discriminated against because of her race and national origin.

The Employment Tribunal ruled against her. It held that the requirement for her to speak English was not based on her nationality but on her behaviour while carrying out her duties. This did not amount to discrimination and there was no evidence that it led to any harassment.

The Employment Appeal Tribunal upheld the decision. It said that it could be discriminatory to ban the use of a foreign language, but that was not the case in this instance. Any other employee who decided to start speaking in another language would have been treated in the same way.

Please contact Jackie Cuneen about the issues raised in this article or any aspect of employment law.

Posted by: Jackie Cuneen
Luton Office