UK court: Embassies not immune from employment lawsuits

AP News
Posted: Feb 05, 2015 11:57 AM

LONDON (AP) — Workers at foreign embassies can sue over alleged discrimination and low pay, a British court ruled Thursday, finding that state immunity shouldn't protect the missions from legal action.

But the Court of Appeal also ruled that individual foreign diplomats are shielded from litigation by diplomatic immunity.

Three appeals judges ruled in a case brought by two Moroccans, a cook and a nanny, who were employed by the Sudanese and Libyan embassies in London.

They said they were paid less than minimum wage and were forced to work unlawful hours.

The judges ruled that Britain's State Immunity Act was incompatible with an employee's right of access to a court under the European Convention of Human Rights.

The ruling means the Moroccans can pursue claims before employment tribunals.

But the court ruled against two domestic workers — a Filipino and an Indonesian — who claim they were trafficked and subjected to discrimination while working for a Saudi diplomat and his wife. The judges said the Saudis were protected by diplomatic immunity.

Emily-Anna Gibbs of the Anti-Trafficking and Labor Exploitation Unit welcomed the ruling in the case of the Moroccans, but said the judgment left the two trafficked workers no avenue for redress.

She said "overseas domestic workers working in diplomatic households and embassies are exceptionally vulnerable to exploitation and abuse, including trafficking."