Worker was discriminated against because of poor language skills

By Joanne Stronach Head of Employment & HR

The Employment Tribunal has ruled that a transport worker was discriminated against because of his ‘lack of command’ of the English language.

Mr A Khawaja, from Pakistan, worked for Transport for London (TfL) but was overlooked for development opportunities such as training and conference calls.

The office held conference calls twice a day and the team members also took part in regular ‘huddles’ that excluded Mr Khawaja.

His manager told him she could see why “confusion arose as English was not his first language” which led to him making a complaint to her superior.

He was told that he would have to work with the manager or would face disciplinary action.

He raised a grievance with TfL. The subsequent investigation decided that the manager had not intended to cause any offence but could have handled the matter more sensitively.

Mr Khawaja went off sick with work-related stress for over a month. He met with an occupational health adviser who said he should be able to return once his grievance was settled.

However, Mr Khawaja wrote to the adviser to say TfL had “failed to address my concerns for racial discrimination and my ex-manager’s aggressive behaviour towards me”. He remained off sick until he resigned five months later.

He brought a claim of discrimination and victimisation, as well as unauthorised deduction from wages and breach of contract.

The Tribunal ruled in his favour, saying the manager had given several reasons for excluding Mr Khawaja from the conference calls and huddles but ultimately it came down to his race.

The level of compensation will be decided at a separate remedy hearing.

If you would like more information about the issues raised in this article or any aspect of employment law please contact Joanne on 01228 516 666 or email her here.

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Client 28th May 2015