Polish-speaking McDonald’s staff lose race discrimination claim

Two McDonald’s employees who claimed they were forbidden from speaking Polish at work have lost their claim for racial discrimination.

Renata Szewczyk and Maria Cisowska alleged at a tribunal in Exeter yesterday that their assistant manager, Claire Lashbrook, had told them they must speak English to one another, even when they were on breaks.

After another employee complained that Polish staff were speaking their own language while working in the fast-food restaurant, the assistant manager asked all staff to speak English on the restaurant floor wherever possible.

The workers claimed they were formally prohibited from speaking Polish nearly nine months after they had raised a number of grievances with the company, and began the employment tribunal process.

However, the tribunal chairman ruled the claim for racial discrimination was “not well-founded”. He said the requirement for staff to speak in English where possible was directed equally at all staff, and that even if it could be “seen to be discriminatory”, the tribunal had balanced this against the reasonable needs of the employer.

A McDonald’s spokesman told Personnel Today that more than 70,000 UK staff did not use English as their mother tongue.

“Our employees are encouraged to speak English when working and when talking with customers. However, we recognise that at times another language may be more appropriate, and we are proud of our ability to speak to our customers and colleagues in their native tongue whenever and wherever appropriate,” he said.

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