Asking employees to speak English in the work place, discrimination?

Kelly v Covance Laboratories Ltd UKEAT/0186/15/LA

You can insist on employees only speaking English in the workplace.


Mrs Kelly was employed at Covance Laboratories Ltd. Mrs Kelly’s line manager believed that she was acting suspiciously because she was taking phone calls and speaking in her native Russian tongue. Her line manager asked that she did not speak Russian within the work place so that her English speaking managers could understand her.

At the same time there was a different conversation where the employer starterd a formal capability process with her. Mrs Kelly raised a grievance for race discrimination, after investigation this was dismissed and she was invited to attend a formal capability hearing.

In addition to this Mrs Kelly was invited to attend a disciplinary hearing as she had been convicted of benefit fraud and failed to disclose her criminal conviction.

The day after her disciplinary hearing, Mrs Kelly resigned bringing a claim of direct race discrimination on the grounds of nationality or origin and race harassment. All of these claims were dismissed.

Mrs Kelly then appealed this decision, these again were dismissed. The Employment Tribunal found for the employer, explaining that the reason for the instruction not to speak Russian was because of the suspicions that she raised rather than because she was Russian.