A MULTIMILLION-EURO PACKAGING firm in Cavan has been ordered to pay thousands of euro to a worker in a discrimination case.
At a recent Labour Court hearing, Ballyconnell-based Boxmore Plastics Ltd failed to overturn a Workplace Relations Commission decision that it must pay €8,000 to employee Zanetta Zimareva for discrimination on the grounds of race.
In 2014, the Latvia-born worker complained about an incident that occurred in the workplace and arranged a meeting with management.
A representative from trade union Siptu accompanied Zimareva at the meeting, but her request for an interpreter was refused.
Zimareva - who has a reasonable command of the English language, the court heard – later wrote to Boxmore Plastics to say that she couldn’t understand what was going on at the meeting.
In a response, the firm acknowledged that Zimareva had difficulty following what was said and offered to reconvene at another date, but it again refused her request for an interpreter, even though she offered to pay for the service.
Her grievance was not upheld and the worker subsequently appealed the decision three times. Zimareva made frequent requests for the use of an interpreter.
In its final letter to the worker, Boxmore Plastics said that she had been represented at all stages by a union shop steward and that it could find no grounds to believe that she had not been given the right to have her grievance properly heard.
It stated that managing director Dermot Gates, who had heard an earlier appeal, concluded that she was “clearly and fluently able to explain in English” the alleged events that took place at the workplace.
Zimareva was represented in the Labour Court by Siptu. She argued that she was discriminated against within the statutory meaning of the term.
She said that by refusing to allow an interpreter to attend the investigation into her grievances, she was denied the opportunity to fully and adequately advance her complaints.
Boxmore Plastics, represented by Purdy Fitzgerald Solicitors, told the court that English is the official language in which all employment-related business is conducted.
It said that it had followed a company-union agreement in relation to workplace complaints, which provides for a union representative or work colleague to attend a grievance meeting but makes no provision for interpreters.
In its decision, the Labour Court said that the company’s argument relied on “the need to preserve the integrity of its grievance procedure for refusing to allow an interpreter to be present during the investigative process”.
“The court cannot accept that any procedures could be so inflexible as not to allow for translation services where they may be required,” it said in the ruling.
As a result, it upheld the decision of a Workplace Relations Commission adjudication officer and awarded Zimareva €8,000 in compensation for discrimination on the grounds of race.