Starbucks Loses Workplace Dyslexia Case

By February 10, 2016Case Review
Starbucks Loses Workplace Dyslexia Case | HR Solutions

A dyslexic employee has won an Employment Tribunal against coffee retail chain Starbucks.

Meseret Kumulchew, a barista at a Starbucks in Clapham, London, suffered discrimination in her role after she was wrongly accused of falsifying documents.

Ms Kumulchew made mistakes in her role due to her difficulties with reading and writing. Yet instead of making reasonable adjustments to Ms Kumulchew’s duties as per her request, her management instead demoted her and asked her to retrain. This reaction caused Ms Kumulchew great personal anguish.

The Employment Tribunal found that the employer should have made reasonable adjustments for Ms Kumulchew’s dyslexia, especially as they knew about her disability from the start of her employment.

Kate Saunders, chief executive of the British Dyslexia Association said: “While we can’t comment on individual legal cases, all organisations must make reasonable adjustments for those with disabilities, including dyslexia, under the Equality Act 2010.”

“They should have appropriate policies in place and make sure there are measures to avoid discrimination, including in the recruitment process, the work environment and colleague reactions.”

What adjustments can an employer make to help a dyslexic person?

Ms Kumulchew’s complaint was that she was not given adequate time or support to finish her tasks, which her management could have resolved with relatively simple adjustments but chose not to. But what can you do to prevent such complaints in the first place? Here are some small adjustments that you can make to assist any colleagues with the condition.

In writing:

  • Do not use italics, underline text or write completely in capitals.
  • Keep lines short and increase the text size and spacing where possible.
  • Use bold to highlight key points.
  • Don’t justify text.

At work:

  • Keep their workspace as calm as possible. This ideally means away from ringing phones or busy thoroughfares.
  • A second computer monitor may help them to declutter their desktop and more easily concentrate on tasks.
  • Recognise that they may need more time or notice to complete tasks than their colleagues.

Without the right support a person with dyslexia can suffer from low self-esteem and a loss of confidence. Yet an employee with the disability may bring an unconventional and beneficial perspective to the business.


Unsure about your responsibilities as an employer? We can help. Give us a call on 0844 324 5840 or contact us online to find out how.

Interested in what we do?

Get the latest news from HR Solutions delivered to your inbox