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Limited English speaking Lithuanian harassed by colleagues’ non-stop ridicule

In Abraitis v Wincanton Group Ltd, Abraitis (A) is a Lithuanian. A does not speak English very well. A claimed that the incessant ridicule he had been subjected to by his colleagues amounted to harassment related to his race, i.e. his Lithuanian nationality. A was consistently told to f**k off and given the finger on arrival at work, he was referred to as “the f*****g foreigner” frequently and was asked if he liked boys. A also tended to greet people with the words “shagga shagga“, which he had learned from his colleagues, but they had not explained the meaning and laughed when it happened.

The tribunal upheld A’s claim. They said that A was an easy target because of his poor English and was trying hard to fit in. But his colleagues were gaining amusement at his expense, related to his nationality. This included deliberately misleading A as to the meaning of the words ‘shagga shagga' and then laughing, when people that A greeted, were surprised by his use of words. The situation was worsened by the fact that A had complained about his treatment, but nothing had been done, and the employer had to accept that such treatment and the use of such language is bound to cause offence by any reasonable standard. A was awarded £7,500 compensation.

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