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requirement to speak only in English at work not always discrimination

22 December 2015

The claimant was working in an environment which tested on animals. The respondent had been subject to attention from animal rights activists in the past and the claimant had been acting unusually, including disappearing for excessive periods of time and speaking on her mobile in Russian. The respondent began to suspect that she may be an animal rights activist. It also considered it was important for security reasons that conversations in the workplace could be understood by English-speaking managers. She was therefore instructed not to speak in Russian at work.

The EAT upheld the ET’s decision that this was not race discrimination on the basis that the same instruction had been given to her named comparators (who were Ukrainian and had also spoken Russian at work) and that there was an explanation for the instruction other than race.

However, it is important to consider each instruction carefully, as such an instruction in other circumstances may well amount to discrimination.

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