A POLISH woman whose bosses banned her from speaking in her native tongue - even to other Poles - has been awarded more than £5,000 at an employment tribunal.

Magdalena Konieczna suffered racial harassment at the hands of managers at Whitelink Seafoods, with one manager referring to Polish workers as "f***ing Poles" and "the f***ing Polish" on several occasions while she was present.

The payroll and HR administrator and all other foreign employees at the Aberdeen factory were ordered to speak English when they were at work, even though many of them could not.

Ms Konieczna then faced the "comical" situation of speaking English to other Poles who did not understand, when she could have simply spoken to them in their native language.

Whitelink tried to claim the rule was introduced for health and safety reasons, however employment judge Nicol Hosie said it was "more likely to create a greater health and safety risk than reduce it".

He awarded Ms Konieczna a total of £5,492 for racial harassment.

The administrator - who was eventually sacked by Whitelink in June 2014 - would have sought a claim of unfair dismissal but she did not have the necessary length of service to pursue it, having worked there for just under two years.

The tribunal heard the issues began in March 2014, when the firm's HR manager Valerie Ritchie overheard a call from a potential employee who only spoke Russian.

Ms Ritchie told Ms Konieczna: "From now on we need to employ people who only speak English."

The following month, Ms Ritchie introduced a new rule that ordered all staff to only speak English while at work.

The workers took the rule to mean that they could also only speak English at their break times.

A written judgment on the tribunal states: "The respondent may not have intended the rule to apply at break times, but that was what the Polish employees believed and any confusion in that regard was due to a failure on the part of the respondent to communicate clearly the terms of the rule, why it was being introduced and how and where it was to be applied."

The judgment adds: "It was natural for the Ms Konieczna to speak Polish to non English speaking Polish workers in the factory, but after the rule was introduced she had to speak English to all the Polish employees whatever their level of ability to speak English.

"She often found it difficult to apply the rule as it was not practical to do so, especially when she was speaking to a Polish employee who could not speak English and who instinctively would speak Polish to her."

The tribunal heard an example from Ms Konieczna which involved a back-to-work interview with a factory worker who could only speak Polish.

The worker had to arrange for her friend to attend the hearing and translate for her instead of Ms Konieczna speaking to her in Polish - a situation described by Ms Konieczna as "comical" and "not time effective".

If bosses overheard her speaking Polish to workers they would reprimand her, with one manager shouting "English" aggressively at her as he passed.

Factory manager William Bruce also warned her to speak English and often referred to Polish workers as 'the f***ing Polish' in her company.

In June 2014, Ms Konieczna was called to a disciplinary for "failing to adhere to the company procedure regarding speaking English during working hours" and a number of other allegations which she had never heard anything about previously.

She was dismissed later that month.

Ms Konieczna tried to sue the company for racial discrimination but this was rejected by the tribunal because she was not disadvantaged by the no Polish rule because she speaks English.

Whitelink refused to comment.