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Starbucks fork out – what’s the employment lesson?

Starbucks have made the news, and set a precedent for other employers, as they’ve had to fork out some of their own bucks recently. An employee was successful in her claim for disability discrimination as she had been subject to detrimental treatment on account of her dyslexia.

What started the claim

The employee, Ms Kumulchew was apparently given a role with lesser duties and told that she had to retrain. The reason for her demotion was that she had made mistakes due to her difficulties with reading, writing and telling the time – all symptoms of her dyslexia. The demotion had a detrimental impact on her and, according to one news report, she felt suicidal.

The next step for employers

We understand that Starbucks are now engaged in discussions about providing more workplace support.

Many employers must face similar situations with medical conditions. The difficulty with dyslexia is that it is not obvious and its effects on day to day work only usually become apparent after an employee starts in their role. Especially, as in this case, if their role involves reading, writing and using numbers.

Steps to take to avoid the Starbucks situation

As an employer, what should you do to prevent yourself being on the wrong side of an Employment Tribunal payout?mediation

1. Meet with your employee informally to try and understand why they are making mistakes;

2. Obtain an Occupational Health Report to provide an assessment of the employee’s condition and what steps you can take to ensure that you comply with your duty to carry out reasonable adjustments;

3. Consider what reasonable adjustments could be made – could the employee continue to do their job with the assistance of visual aids, or is there another role which the employee could carry out within the organisation?

If you have any questions regarding this, or any other aspect of employment law please get in touch with Julie Sullivan by e-mail or on 01383 721 621.

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