Business Disability Forum responds to Starbucks employee dyslexia discrimination case

10 February 2016

Business Disability Forum (BDF) has learned of the recent case in which a Starbucks employee with dyslexia has won a disability discrimination case against her employer.

A tribunal found Meseret Kumulchew had been discriminated against after making mistakes due to her difficulties with reading, writing and telling the time.

The tribunal found that Starbucks had failed to make the workplace adjustments necessary to allow Ms Kumulchew to carry out her role. The organisation was also accused of having little or no understanding of equality issues in the workplace. To read the full article, visit: 

At Business Disability Forum (BDF), we work with over 300 UK employers to make it easier and more rewarding to do business with and employ disabled people. We provide our membership with the support, expertise, guidance and training to help their organisations become fully accessible to disabled customers and employees.

In cases such as this, often simple and inexpensive workplace adjustments can be the solution - both for the business and the employee. Through having greater awareness of disability in the workplace, businesses can equip their line managers with the skills and understanding to implement effective workplace adjustments that will allow employees to achieve their full potential.

For employees with dyslexia, there are a number of solutions that can be of benefit to them in their role. For example:

- The availability of visual learning aids as opposed to text-based instructions.

- Employees with dyslexia may also benefit from having more time to complete tasks that involve reading and writing.

- The availability of coloured paper and/or coloured film to place on top of documents may also help employees when reading.

- Adjusted duties – if the employee’s role requires only a small amount of reading and written based tasks, it could be possible to adjust this so a different employee can carry out this element of the role.

Speaking about this case, Bela Gor, Legal Director at BDF said:

“Managers risk breaking the law when they don’t believe an employee has a disability. In this case, Ms Kumulchew told her employer she had dyslexia and that she found certain tasks difficult. Rather than listening to her and making adjustments that would have helped her do her job they assumed she was acting fraudulently.

“Not all disabilities are visible but that doesn’t mean they aren’t real. Disability awareness and a little knowledge of equality law would have saved Starbucks from a costly tribunal and prevented an enthusiastic employee who loved her job extreme distress.”

Whilst the Starbuck’s case illustrates an example of bad practice, there are a number of organisations throughout BDF’s membership who are leading the way in disability best practice. BDF Partner Fujitsu, for example, has created a successful dyslexia sub-group as part of its Disabled Employee Network. This group provides continuous support for employees with dyslexia whilst also raising awareness throughout the organisation as a whole on how the company might better support its employees with dyslexia.

If you would like more information or would like to discuss this subject further, please contact Emily Jackson on 020 7403 3020 or email



1. Business Disability Forum represents some 300 organisations that employ 20% of the UK workforce. We have more than twenty years’ experience of equipping people with the expertise to create confident organisations by improving the understanding of disability in business, removing barriers and making adjustments for individuals. For more information about the Forum please visit:

2. For more information  on reasonable adjustments, non-visibilities disabilities and working with disabled colleagues please see our line manager guidance