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Employee Wins Disability Discrimination Case Against Starbucks

Meseret Kumulchew, an employee with dyslexia, has won her disability discrimination case in the Employment Tribunal against the coffeehouse chain Starbucks. The case provides a strong reminder that employees with dyslexia can be classified as disabled persons under the Equality Act 2010, and of the obligations under the Act that are placed on employees to make reasonable adjustments to accommodate employees with disabilities.

The Claimant, who worked as a supervisor, was required to enter data on a rota to record refrigerator and water temperatures. She recorded incorrect information and Starbucks accused her of falsifying documents. The Claimant argued that she was not fraudulent, and had instead made innocent mistakes. She stated that her dyslexia resulted in considerable difficulties reading, writing and telling the time, and that she had previously made her employer aware of her condition. Starbucks decided to give the Claimant less important responsibilities and instructed her to retrain. The Claimant argued that this left her feeling suicidal.

Section 20 of the Equality Act 2010, imposes a duty on employers to make reasonable adjustments to premises or working practices to help disabled job applicants and disabled employees. A failure to make reasonable adjustments is a form of discrimination.

The Tribunal found that Starbucks had failed to make reasonable adjustments for the Claimant’s disability, and discriminated against her because of the effects of her condition. It argued that the company demonstrated little or no understanding of equality issues.

A further hearing is to be held to determine the amount of compensation that the Claimant will receive. 

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