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Instruction not to speak Russian at work is not race discrimination
In Kelly v Covance Laboratories Limited, the EAT has upheld an Employment Tribunal decision that the employer was not directly discriminating or harassing an employee on the grounds of her race in requiring her not to speak Russian at work. The employer had a reasonable explanation for this which was wholly unrelated to the employee’s nationality or national origins.
In the context of the employer’s activities, which comprise carrying out animal testing, and the stringent security requirements arising from this, the Tribunal, endorsed by the EAT, considered it was reasonable for the employer to request the employee to cease speaking in her native language in order that conversations in the workplace could be understood by the English speaking managers. This was further enhanced by the fact that the employee had been acting suspiciously.
This case demonstrates that, if an employer has a reasonable and justified reason to require an employee to speak English, unrelated to nationality, it will not be discriminatory to require this.
For further details on any of the issues covered in this update please contact Gemma Ospedale, Partner in Employment on 020 7583 2222.
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