Meseret Kumulchew brought a disability discrimination claim against her employer, Starbucks, after she had been accused of falsifying documents.

Ms Kumulchew, who is dyslexic, worked as a supervisor in a Starbucks store located in Clapham, South London.

Ms Kumulchew was responsible for logging and recording the temperatures of the refrigerators and water throughout her working day and detailing the same in a duty roster; however, due to the difficulties she found with reading, writing and telling the time by reason of being dyslexic, she had entered the wrong information and was subsequently accused of falsifying documents.

As a result of the errors her employer provided her with lesser duties and she was also informed that she would need to go through specific retraining, which severely affected her health and left her feeling suicidal.

Ms Kumulchew brought a claim against Starbucks on the grounds of Starbucks’ failure to make reasonable adjustments to accommodate her dyslexia. It was not in dispute that Starbucks were aware that she was dyslexic.

The Employment Tribunal found that Starbucks had failed to make reasonable adjustments under the Equality Act 2010. The Tribunal found that Starbucks had discriminated against her further that she had been victimised. The Tribunal found that Starbucks had shown little understanding of equality issues.

Dr Kate Saunders, CEO of the British Dyslexia Association highlighted that individuals who are dyslexic can find the workplace difficult and experience high levels of anxiety due to their employers not providing them with adjusted training or make reasonable adjustments.

Our Employment Solicitor, Yunus Lunat commented as follows on the Tribunal’s decision:

This case and the case of Banaszczyk v Booker, demonstrate the importance of employers taking proactive steps to investigate medical reasons which may be behind simple errors made by staff before jumping the gun to disciplinaries.

The Equality and HR Commission in its statutory Code of Practice on the Equality Act 2010 emphasises that the duty to make reasonable adjustments is “a cornerstone of the Act, and requires employers to take positive steps to ensure disabled people can access and progress in employment”.

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