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Case Law

Starbucks discriminated against dyslexic employee

Starbucks discriminated by disciplining an employee for reasons connected with dyslexia.

Kumulchew v Starbucks [ET] | 2015

The Facts

Ms Kumulchew was a shift supervisor at Starbucks.

Her duties included taking the temperature of the fridges and water and recording these in the duty roster.

Ms Kumulchew was accused by Starbucks of falsifying documents after she recorded the information incorrectly.  She was investigated.  She argued the incorrect records were caused by her dyslexia.  Starbucks required her to produce a certificate evidencing her dyslexia.  Her GP advised there was no such thing and Starbucks could send her for an assessment.  They did not.

Ms Kumulchew was issued with a disciplinary warning and given lesser duties and told to retrain.

Ms Kumulchew was dyslexic. Starbucks were aware of this from an early stage. She brought a number of claims including disability discrimination.

The Employment Tribunal Decision

The employment tribunal found that Starbucks had discriminated for a reason related to her disability by subjecting Ms Kumulchew to a disciplinary process and issuing her with a disciplinary warning.

Starbucks also failed to make reasonable adjustments as it did not provide her with typed disciplinary notes and they were not given quickly enough.

Comment

In this case Starbucks knew about Ms Kumulchew’s dyslexia, which was serious enough to amount to a disability. This will not be the case for everyone.

Starbucks could have made adjustments by printing procedures in bigger font, using different training methods and having work checked by colleagues.  Whether these sorts of adjustments are reasonable will depend on the organisation.  Where possible discuss the possible adjustments and agree them with the employee.

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