Starbucks worker wins dyslexia discrimination case
9 February 2016
Starbucks has lost a disability discrimination case against a dyslexic employee who claimed she had been accused of falsifying documents, according to reports.
Meseret Kumulchew was discriminated against after making mistakes due to her difficulties with reading, writing and telling the time, an employment tribunal found.
In response to the finding, the coffee giant said it was working to ensure all its employees are supported at work, but acknowledged that it still needs “to do more”.
Ms Kumulchew, who was working as a supervisor at Starbucks in Clapham, south-west London, claimed she was left feeling suicidal after being given lesser duties and told to retrain.
She was responsible for taking the temperature of fridges and water at specific times and entering the results in a duty roster.
After mistakenly entering incorrect information Ms Kumulchew was accused of falsifying documents.
She told the BBC: “There was a point that I wanted to commit suicide. I am not a fraud. The name fraud itself shouldn’t exist for me. It’s quite serious.
“I nearly ended my life. But I had to think of my kids and that’s the sort of what made me bounce back.
“I’m dyslexic – I get carried away to the extent that when I’m at work I have to put an alarm clock on my mobile to alarm me it’s 2.18, 2.17. Then I can start packing, otherwise I’m in it and I don’t even think anything.”
Ms Kumulchew said her employers should have worked with the Dyslexic Association in a bid to understand her learning difficulty, and suggested the chain use larger font in its policies, so that they were easier to read.
“I love my job because it gives me interaction with different people.
“Giving them a coffee may not seem like a big deal but to me, I’m making their life, for a day at least, happy,” Ms Kumulchew added.
She took Starbucks to an employment tribunal alleging disability discrimination saying she had always been open about her dyslexia.
In a statement, Starbucks said: “We have been working with the British Dyslexia Association on improving the support we provide to our employees, and did so concerning Meseret Kumulchew in 2015.
“We recognise however that we need to do more, which is why we are investigating what additional support we can provide.”
The judgment was made last December, and a further hearing is set to take place to determine whether any compensation is due.
A spokeswoman for the British Dyslexia Association said: “Employers must make reasonable adjustments which can include ensuring appropriate training for staff about dyslexia awareness, providing an environment where those who are or think they may be dyslexic feel able to discuss their difficulties and strengths with managers and get appropriate support.
“All dyslexic individuals are different so this dialogue is important to meet the needs appropriately. People with Dyslexia can bring unique skills to an employer and they should be valued as part of a team with mixed skills and strengths.”
Photo from Nick Ansell / PA Wire