If the British Dyslexia Association estimate is to be believed, a whopping one in ten people have dyslexia, although a large number have not been formally diagnosed. This is a significant number and one that employers should be considering carefully. It is important for employers to try and understand their employees’ disabilities and how it can affect their working day and performance, and whether the employer themselves can take reasonable steps to ensure a suitable working environment for their employee.
The recent case of Starbucks stands as a timely reminder after an employee won a disability discrimination case against the coffee chain after problems relating to her dyslexia led to her making mistakes when entering accurate information on hygiene records.
The employee was accused by Starbucks of falsifying documents and punished by reducing her duties and instructed to retrain. This led to a strong negative impact on the employee’s mental state.
The Employment Tribunal found that Starbucks had committed a number of wrongs, including:
- Starbucks were found to have discriminated against the employee because of her dyslexia
- Starbucks were found to have victimised the employee by demoting her and making her feel inadequate because of her disability
- Starbucks failed to make reasonable adjustments to accommodate the employee’s disability
For employers, this case represents a significant concern as it demonstrates that the weight of the responsibility is on the employer to accommodate all employee disabilities, from the obvious, such as a physical disability, to the more hidden disabilities, such as dyslexia.