The case below was reported in February 2016 and shows why an employer must pay attention to an employee in difficulty.
Meseret Kumulchew v Starbucks
• Meseret Kumulchew accused of falsifying paperwork at Clapham branch
• She made errors when recording the temperatures of fridges and water
• Her duties were reduced and she was told to retrain.
• Starbucks faces a compensation claim after losing tribunal in December
A Starbucks supervisor with a diagnosis of dyslexia was demoted after making mistakes with paperwork, she took the case to a disability tribunal and won a disability discrimination claim against Starbucks because she struggled to read, write and tell the time.
Meseret Kumulchew, who struggles with reading, writing and telling the time, was accused of falsifying documents at the Clapham branch. Ms Kumulchew was given reduced duties and told to retrain after failing to correctly take the temperature of the water and fridges at regular intervals and record the results. Starbucks said the errors amounted to fraud, which she successfully claimed was a form of disability discrimination. Ms Kumulchew explained that she wasn't afforded the help needed to carry out her duties. In a message to Starbucks she said: 'I'll struggle, but don't worry, help me and I'll get there in my own time."
Starbucks lost the tribunal in December 2015 and is now facing a compensation claim.
Starbucks was found to have victimised Ms Kumulchew and its 'equality' policies failed to support her dyslexia, they should have made 'reasonable adjustments' to her duties to help her continue in her job.
This case illustrates two core points:
1. If you are employee and you experience difficulties with reading, number or organisation and you suspect these difficulties are linked to a specific learning difficulty such as dyslexia, dyspraxia, dyscalculia it is vital that you have a diagnostic assessment, Ms Kumulchew won her case because she had been diagnosed with dyslexia by an educational psychologist.
2. If you are employer and one of your employees is experiencing difficulties with reading, number or organisation and you suspect these difficulties are linked to a specific learning difficulty such as dyslexia, dyspraxia, dyscalculia, then you have a duty to ask them to have a diagnostic assessment with an educational psychologist.
Many dyslexics are struggling in the work place with very high levels of anxiety, because employers do not have the training or the awareness to make adjustments for them. An educational psychologist will be able to make an assessment and identify any specific learning difficulties that may be causing mistakes at work and recommend reasonable adjustments. We offer a work related diagnostic assessment for £450, which includes a discussion and agreement with the employee as to reasonable adjustments. We welcome a representative from the employees company to observe the assessment and join the discussion as to reasonable adjustments at the conclusion of the assessment