Dyslexic employee wins discrimination case against Starbucks

2016-02-09 chris posted:

A woman with dyslexia has won a disability discrimination case against her employer Starbucks after she was accused of falsifying documents. The ruling highlights the duty on employers to make allowances for staff with disabilities.

The case concerned Meseret Kumulchew who was a supervisor at a Starbucks store in Clapham, London. As supervisor, Ms Kumulchew was responsible for taking the temperature of fridges and water at specific times and had to enter the results in a duty roster.

Ms Kumulchew is dyslexic, and asked her employer Starbucks for help - for example, more time to fully understand and become familiar with a task, and someone to check her work for mistakes.

She was accused of falsifying documents after mistakenly entering wrong information. As a result, Starbucks reduced her responsibilities and ordered her to retrain, which left her feeling suicidal.

Ms Kumulchew took Starbucks to the Employment Tribunal alleging disability discrimination. She claimed that her employer knew she was dyslexic, had difficulties with words and numbers, and had to be shown how to do tasks visually.

The Tribunal found in her favour holding that Starbucks was in breach of the Equality Act 2010. It held that Starbucks failed to make reasonable adjustments for Ms Kumulchew disability and discriminated against her because of the effects of her dyslexia. It also found she had been victimised by her employer and that here appeared to be little or no knowledge or understanding of equality issues.

A separate hearing to determine how much compensation Starbucks should pay will be held in the next few weeks.

As the case was in the Employment Tribunal, it does not set a legal precedent, but it is a wake-up for employers, especially as the British Dyslexia Association estimates that 1 in 10 people in the UK have dyslexia to some degree.

The Equality Act is vague on whether dyslexia constitutes a disability. The Act defines a disability as “a physical or mental impairment which has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on … normal day-to-day activities”. It goes on to suggest that under stressful conditions people with dyslexia can be seen to suffer such an impairment.

The case highlights that all organisations must make reasonable adjustments for those with disabilities, which potentially could include those with dyslexia. Organisations should have appropriate policies in place and make sure they avoid discrimination in the recruitment process and the work environment.

If you have a query about discrimination or equality issues, contact us today on 01225 632240 or at info@renneyandco.com.

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