Anna Bunting – Partner in the Employment team – discusses the recent successful discrimination case brought against Starbucks by a Dyslexic employee.

A dyslexic employee who works for Starbucks was found by an Employment Tribunal to have been subjected to disability discrimination. She was wrongly accused of falsifying documents when she had in fact simply misread the numbers that she was recording.

Ms Kumulchew was responsible for taking the water and fridge temperatures at specific times and recording them as part of her duties as a Supervisor.  After inaccurately recording this information she was accused of falsifying the recordings, had her responsibilities reduced, and was ordered to retrain.  Ms Kumulchew said she had made her bosses aware of her dyslexia and that the accusation had made her want to take her own life.

As there is no longer a requirement for a condition to be “clinically well recognised” dyslexia can constitute a disability.  The Tribunal found that Starbucks had failed to make reasonable adjustments for Ms Kumulchew’s reading difficulties and that they had discriminated against her because of the effects of her dyslexia.  Ms Kumulchew still works for Starbucks who have confirmed that they are in ongoing discussions with her around specific workplace support.

This case, whilst not representing a change in the law, highlights the need for employers to be aware of the wide variety of conditions that could potentially amount to a disability and the importance of providing employees with support where necessary.

It also serves as a warning not to jump straight into a disciplinary situation before considering the consequences and carrying out an investigation. Should you have a similar issue in your workplace or require further information regarding this case please do not hesitate to contact myself or one of my colleagues in the Employment Team.

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