Meseret Kumulchew was working as a supervisor for Starbucks at Clapham Junction in London. She was responsible for recording the temperature of fridges and water at particular times. However, the company accused her of faking the records when the wrong information was entered. Meseret explained that she was dyslexic and had difficulties with reading, writing and telling the time. In the UK, under the Equality Act 2010, an employer needs to take account of an employee’s disability and ensure that ‘provisions, criteria or practices’ do not put a disabled employee at a disadvantage compared with other employees. A company must take reasonable steps to avoid any disadvantage. The company is responsible for assessing needs and making adjustments. For dyslexia, although it is not automatically seen as a disability, there is still a need to assess and to seek more expert opinion from occupational health professionals on what an employee can and cannot do. When Meseret described her dyslexia, the company regarded this explanation as unlikely and accused her of making up the data, as a result of which she was disciplined. As a result, her responsibilities were downgraded and she was told to retrain, both of which left her feeling extremely distressed and suicidal. Eventually, Meseret took Starbucks to an employment tribunal, which found in her favour. The tribunal discovered that even though Starbucks had a policy for diversity, which included provisions to remove discrimination, this was not in practice working sufficiently.
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