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30th March 2016

Making Reasonable Adjustments For Employee With Dyslexia

Kumulchew v Starbucks Coffee Company UK Ltd and ors

In this first instance decision the ET found that the respondent had failed to make reasonable adjustments for the claimant’s disability and had therefore discriminated against her because of the impact of her dyslexia, which included her ability to carry out her day to day duties at work and engage in disciplinary proceedings.

The claimant was a supervisor at a branch of Starbucks and was responsible for taking the temperature of fridges and water at specific times and entering the results in a duty roster. She was accused of falsifying the documents after erroneously entering incorrect information and thereafter subjected to disciplinary proceedings for which she was given a final written warning, which was later reduced to a written warning. A further detriment to the claimant was that she was given fewer duties at her branch and was informed that she would need to retrain which, she asserted, left her feeling suicidal.

The claimant issued claims against her employer and two senior staff members  for breaches of The Equality Act 2010. The claimant’s case in part related to claims of sex discrimination and victimisation regarding the manner in which she was treated by a fellow employee and how her sex discrimination complaints were dealt with. The claimant also claimed discrimination either directly because of, or arising, from her dyslexia.

The claimant pleaded that as a consequence of raising grievances asserting sexual harassment and gender based discrimination against a colleague, her employer and its managers caused her a detriment by threatening her with disciplinary action for poor customer service. She also claimed that a warning received for falsification of records constituted discrimination against her as a dyslexic employee because the errors were due to her being dyslexic. The claimant asserted that the employer and its managers failed to make reasonable adjustments for her in the disciplinary process by not giving consideration to the fact that the errors were related to her disability, and maintained a PCP (provision, criterion or practice) of accurate and timely completion of its duty rosters to her which was to her detriment.

The Employment Tribunal held that there was no detriment or reason why a disciplinary procedure should not proceed where the employee has a disability if the issues raised warranted investigation (which in the claimant’s case was health and safety). The obligation on an employer is to ensure that reasonable adjustments are made to avoid substantial disadvantage in the process adopted. The Employment Tribunal held the employer had failed to make reasonable adjustments by inter alia, requiring handwritten notes of the meeting to be signed and agreed by employees at the end of the meeting which the claimant found difficult to read and therefore required additional time to process and respond to.

The claimant succeeded in 6 of the 10 claims she had issued against the respondents including a claim of victimisation relating to her treatment following her complaints of sexual harassment. In relation to these, the Tribunal made a finding of fact that the issuing of a warning was in consequence of the disability she had; dyslexia. The Employment Tribunal also found that the disciplinary process followed by the employer in respect of the employee had been conducted unfairly.

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