A woman with dyslexia has won a disability discrimination case against Starbucks after she was accused of falsifying documents at a London branch in Clapham.
Meseret Kumulchew was discriminated against after making mistakes due to her difficulties with reading, writing and telling the time, a tribunal ruled. As a result Kumulchew, who was a supervisor, was given lesser duties and told to retrain, which left her feeling suicidal.
In a decision released in December, the tribunal found Starbucks had failed to make reasonable adjustments for Kumulchew's disability and had discriminated against her because of the effects of her dyslexia. It also said Kumulchew had been victimised by the coffee chain and there appeared to be little or no knowledge or understanding of equality issues.
A separate hearing is to take place to determine if Kumulchew should be paid compensation.
Starbucks has reportedly said it is in discussions about providing more workplace support.
Kumulchew was responsible for taking the temperature of fridges and water at specific times and entering the results in a duty roster. The accusation of falsifying documents related to Kumulchew mistakenly recording incorrect information.
She took Starbucks to an employment tribunal claiming disability discrimination because she had made Starbucks aware that she was dyslexic, meaning she had difficulties with words and numbers.
The British Dyslexia Association said the case did not set a legal precedent, but should be a wake-up call for employers as it estimates that one in 10 people has dyslexia to some degree.
Kumulchew told the BBC that she was "not a fraud".
She said: "It's quite serious. I nearly ended my life. But I had to think of my kids. I know I'm not a fraud. I just made a mistake."
According to the broadcaster Starbucks released a statement saying: "We are in ongoing discussions with this Starbucks partner (employee) around specific workplace support and we are not able to comment on a case that has not yet been completed."
The company said it was committed to having a "diverse and inclusive workforce" that "feel welcome and comfortable in our stores".
Kumulchew said she wanted help - for example, more time to fully understand and become familiar with a task, and someone to check her work for mistakes.
"I'll struggle, but don't worry, help me and I'll get there in my own time," she told the BBC.
"I'm not going to affect your business, because for every customer I'll roll out the red carpet."
Useful websites and helplines:
- Samaritans offers a listening service which is open 24 hours a day, on 116 123 (UK and ROI - this number is FREE to call and will not appear on your phone bill.)
- Mind, open Monday to Friday, 9am-6pm on 0300 123 3393
- Get Connected is a free advice service for people under 25. Call 0808 808 4994 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- HopeLine runs a confidential advice helpline if you are a young person at risk of suicide or are worried about a young person at risk of suicide. Mon-Fri 10-5pm and 7pm-10pm. Weekends 2pm-5pm on 0800 068 41 41