Albina Sokolova was penalized for admitting to having spoken in her mother tongue with other workers in Eastern Europe, although there were no complaints from her colleagues
A Latvian worker won his case for racism after being penalized for not speaking English at work.
Albina Sokolova was arrested because she admitted to having spoken in her mother tongue with other workers in Eastern Europe, although there were no complaints from her colleagues and supervisors.
She was warned that she should not use her native language and that she should speak English to her colleagues even if she did not have a good command of the language.
Ms Sokolova, who is Latvian but also considers Russian a mother tongue, “relied on her daughter” to translate at home – but was refused a translator in meetings with the bosses.
She won her case after a labor court ruled that she was “at a disadvantage” for not being able to speak a native language at meetings, adding that it was “not necessary” that only English be spoken, and will now be paid over £ 10,000 in compensation.
The court heard that Ms Sokolova had worked for the fruit and nut snack supplier Humdinger Limited for more than ten years.
She started working as a production operator at the company’s Hull factory in 2010, shortly after moving to the UK.
In 2015, the company introduced a new ‘language policy’ which stipulated that ‘English should be spoken in the workplace’ and that workers could only speak another language ‘during rest and lunch breaks. “.
In a note to employees, it was explained that a “common language” “would promote effective communication in the workplace throughout the company”.
Hull court overheard Ms Sokolova discussing the policy in a meeting with bosses in February 2017 after a supervisor issued a “letter of concern” in which they “requested improvements” to her English .
Two and a half years later, Ms Sokolova requested leave for a ‘dentist appointment’ in Latvia, which was refused because she had ‘used up her vacation leave’ and ‘could not take any leave without pay “.
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She canceled the appointment – the last in a series of implant treatments – and went to work the day the appointment was due, but was absent due to illness the next day.
She was invited to an interview on unauthorized absence and requested that her daughter, who “is fluent in Latvian, Russian and English”, attend and interpret for her.
The court heard that Ms Sokolova “could manage in the factory” with the British she had “taken”, but that it was “not sophisticated enough to handle the disciplinary and grievance meetings”.
However, her request for an interpreter was categorically refused, placing her at a “particularly disadvantageous” position.
At subsequent disciplinary and grievance meetings, she “did not repeat” the request but was sometimes accompanied by a colleague whose English was “not of the necessary standard”.
Ms Sokolova then submitted several grievances to her employers, but was only “offered” an interpreter until meetings held shortly before her dismissal in July 2020.
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She has also been penalized for speaking with other foreign employees in her native language – although there have been no recent complaints about this.
The court was informed: “The impression portrayed (…) was that allegations had been made against the applicant concerning violations of the effective communication policy.
“[Mrs Sokolova] had asked to see the complaints, but [did] not [receive] them (unsurprisingly, because they did not exist).
“Apart from the letter of concern of February 10, 2017, there was no information that [her] behavior in this regard had been a problem for his colleagues or supervisors. “
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The court was informed: “[Mrs Sokolova] suggested while no English worker was around, no real objection could be made to speaking other languages.
“Without the continued use of the same common language, switching from one language to another would risk unintentional mistakes becoming commonplace.”
While the court ruled that it was “reasonably necessary” that the language policy be implemented in the factory, it ruled that grievances and disciplinary meetings required “full and complete” communication.
He ruled that the use of “only English” in disciplinary and grievance meetings was “not justified”.
Labor Judge David Jones said: “This case demonstrated a misuse of disciplinary procedures and unfairly targeted an employee who had filed a grievance.
“These actions fell outside any reasonable and acceptable range of response. For these reasons, we find the termination to be unfair.”
The court ordered Humdinger Limited to pay Ms Sokolova £ 10,800 for indirect racial discrimination and harming feelings.