Starbucks loses disability discrimination case: a reminder for employers to be vigilant

The Employment Tribunal has ruled that an employee at Starbucks was discriminated against on the ground of disability as a result of dyslexia. This condition means the individual has particular difficulty with words and/or numbers as well as processing information.

Ms Kumulchew was a Supervisor for Starbucks and one of her duties was to take the temperature readings from the fridges at set times and record the results. Ms Kumulchew recorded the information incorrectly and she was subject to disciplinary proceedings; she was given lesser duties and told to retrain for falsifying the records.

Ms Kumulchew had made Starbucks aware that she had dyslexia but alleged that the company failed to help her by not allowing her more time to understand tasks and not allowing somebody to check her work.

The Tribunal found that the company had failed to make reasonable adjustments to ensure that Ms Kumulchew was not disadvantaged at work. It also found that Ms Kumulchew had been discriminated against because of the effects of her dyslexia and that she had been treated unfavourably for raising her complaints.

The case is a reminder of the positive duty on employers once they become aware of an employee’s disability. Disability is very widely defined and employers should be vigilant to any physical or mental impairment that might affect an employee on a day to day basis.

If you need help or advice in relation to disability in the workplace, please contact any member of our Employment team.

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