A British Indian interpreter and her Iran-born colleague are suing the British government for paying them for "doing nothing" for 15 years and thereby ruining their careers.
Marti Khan and Odette King are claiming more than 1.5 million pounds (over $2.9 million) as damages after immigration officials apparently forgot they existed.
Both were paid 25,000 pounds a year to translate for new arrivals and were based at Heathrow Airport's Terminal 3 in London. But immigration managers failed to reassign the translators after the Home Office started outsourcing translation jobs to freelance interpreters in 1990.
The Central London Employment Tribunal ruled Thursday that the two women were victims of race and sex discrimination. If successful, it may cost the Home Office 2.5 million pounds, which will also include legal costs.
Khan, who is fluent in various Indian languages, and King, who speaks Farsi, in their complaint to the tribunal had alleged that they turned up for work for 41 hours a week but were paid to "do nothing" or given "basic clerical duties" such as filing.
Judge Jeremy McMullen of the tribunal criticised the immigration and nationality directorate as "one of Britain's least impressive managements" and said the farce had involved more than 100 managers and human resources staff, the Daily Mail reported.
Both women are British but Khan is of Indian origin while King hails from Iran.
Khan is claiming 970,000 pounds in compensation, including 682,000 pounds for the loss of her career and 60,000 pounds for injury to feelings. King is seeking 550,000 pounds including 302,000 pounds for the loss of her career.
Both women are also seeking an order that the Home Office must find them jobs.