Starbucks found to have discriminated against a Dyslexic employee.

When does impairment become a disability?

Starbucks discriminated against an employee for being dyslexic

I was recently reading an article in Personnel Today about an employee who had won a claim against her employer, the coffee shop chain Starbucks, for disability discrimination. The employee was required, as part of her supervisory duties, to record refrigerator and water temperatures at specific times of the day. Unfortunately the information recorded was inaccurate and accusations were made by her employer that she had falsified documentation. As such, her duties were decreased and she was informed she had to retrain. However, the employee had dyslexia which affected her reading, writing and telling the time.

The Employment Tribunal concluded that the employee’s dyslexia was a disability, the employer had failed to make reasonable adjustments for this disability and, as such, she had been discriminated against on grounds of disability.

The full article can be read here.

This article reminded me of a number of disability discrimination cases that I have dealt with over the years involving employees, or ex-employees, who have had dyslexia. I have come across a number of employers over the years that have not recognised dyslexia as potentially constituting a disability for the purposes of the Equality Act 2010.

In section 6 of the Equality Act 2010 a person has a disability if they have a physical or mental impairment and the impairment has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on that person’s ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities.

When considering whether impairment is a disability, for the purposes of legislation, each case will be assessed on its own individual merits. Guidance is provided within the legislation to offer some assistance. There are only three impairments which automatically amount to a disability. These include HIV, cancer and multiple sclerosis.

In terms of dyslexia it may surprise you to know that, according to Dyslexia Action, it is estimated that 1 in 10 people have dyslexia which equates to more than 6.3 million in the UK. The severity of the condition will vary from one person to another and, as it is not automatically considered to be a disability, there will be occasions when it is considered by a Tribunal to be a disability and other occasions when it will not. As above, each case is assessed on its own merits.

Disability discrimination is a complex area of law and, as the case law continues to evolve, it is important that employers remain up to date.

Should you have any questions or queries relating to this topic, or in deed any other employment related issue, please do not hesitate to contact Nicola Cockerill or our Employment Law Team on 01733 882800.

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This article has been prepared for general interest and information purposes only; it does not constitute legal advice and should not be relied on as such. While all possible care has been taken in the preparation of this article, no responsibility for the accuracy and/or correctness of the information and commentary set out in the article, or for any consequences of relying on it, is assumed or accepted by the firm or the authors.