‘Sacked for Speaking Polish’ – Woman Awaits Decision of Employment Tribunal in Scotland

A Polish accountant in Scotland is awaiting a judgment from an employment tribunal after being sacked for speaking her native language at work… to other Poles during informal conversation.

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Magdalena Konieczna, of Fraserburgh, near Aberdeen in north-east Scotland, was hired as payroll administrator at Whitelink Seafoods in June 2012. She worked there until June last year, when she was fired for breaching the company’s ‘English only’ rule.

She took the company to a tribunal, and her case was adjourned in April 2015. Now, after hearing statements from both Ms Konieczna and the company’s representatives, the court is preparing to issue a judgment.

The Press and Journal, which has been covering the case from the start, reports that Ms Konieczna told the tribunal she understood the company policy to mean that only English could be spoken, even during breaks.

She added that she had learned of the rule from her colleagues, stating: “All they knew was they were not allowed to speak Polish at all. They were not able to communicate at all. I was shocked.

“I had never heard of a policy like that before. It was discrimination.”

The Press and Journal reports that Whitelink Seafoods employs around 100 people, from Poland, Latvia, Lithuania, China and Bulgaria. The ‘English only’ rule applies to all, says the newspaper.

Andrew Sutherland, director of Whitelink Seafoods, told the tribunal that the policy had been put in place for ‘health and safety reasons’. According to the Press and Journal, Mr Sutherland rebuked Ms Konieczna for speaking Polish to a fellow Pole on reception.

The Press and Journal reports that another company director, James Sutherland, said Ms Konieczna could speak English but ‘refused’ to follow the rule – despite her claim that many of the other foreign workers only had ‘basic’ or ‘good’ English.

Mr Sutherland added: “You can’t have a rule in place if you’re not going to enforce it”.

The tribunal is expected to reach a decision by the end of August.

Picture: Ms Konieczna outside the tribunal/Press and Journal