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Dyslexia discrimination – Employee wins case against Starbucks

Background

The Equality Act 2010 can protect employees from discrimination in the workplace and disability is one of the protected characteristics which an employee can rely on to make a claim. Under this Act, employers have a duty to make reasonable adjustments to their premises or employment arrangements, if these substantially disadvantage a disabled employee or a prospective employee. A disabled person is defined as having ‘a physical or mental impairment which has a substantial and long-term effect on their ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities.’ Therefore, dyslexia can be classed as a disability where it fulfils these requirements.

The facts

Ms Kumulchew, a supervisor at Starbucks, was responsible for taking the temperature of fridges and water at specific times and entering the results in a duty roster. Her employers were aware of her dyslexia, which meant that she had difficulties with words and numbers and had to be shown how to do tasks visually. Despite knowing this, Starbucks accused her of falsifying documents, when she had misread the numbers. Furthermore, after the accusation, the employer reduced her responsibilities.

At tribunal the employer was found to have failed to make reasonable adjustments for the employee and had discriminated against her because of the effects of her dyslexia. Furthermore, it was held that she had been victimised by her employer and there appeared to be little or no knowledge or understanding of equality issues.

Although this case does not set a legal precedent regarding dyslexia, it should be a wake-up call for employers to consider providing more workplace support for such a disability. Going forward, employers should investigate what additional support they could provide to employees who suffer from dyslexia and be aware of possible coping or avoidance strategies of employees suffering from dyslexia, especially in pressurised work environments.

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Employees

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