The importance of reasonable adjustment: Meseret Kumulchew v Starbucks
Published on August 25, 2016
published on August 25, 2016

ThePeopleAlchemist Edit: HR, business and the law


Starbucks has lost a disability discrimination case after it wrongly accused a dyslexic employee of falsifying documents when she had simply misread numbers she was responsible for recording. This case is a useful reminder of the importance of making reasonable adjustments when an employer is aware of an employee’s disability. Once an individual has informed their employer that they are suffering from any recognised medical condition or symptoms which could afford them disabled status, the employer should take steps to inform themselves of the nature of the condition and how this may affect the employee in the workplace.

In Meseret Kumulchew v Starbucks, the employee was a supervisor at a branch of Starbucks and was responsible for taking the temperature of fridges and water at specific times and entering the results in a duty roster. During a disciplinary hearing, she was accused of falsifying the documents after erroneously entering incorrect information; she was also asked to provide a “certificate” to prove her dyslexia.

The employee was then given fewer duties and was informed she would need to retrain. This left her feeling suicidal.

Ms Kumulchew brought a claim against Starbucks at Tribunal alleging disability discrimination saying that she had always disclosed to her employer she was dyslexic and suffered from problems at work such as difficulties with reading, writing.
The Tribunal found Starbucks had failed to make reasonable adjustments for the disability and had therefore discriminated against her because of the effects of her dyslexia and her ability to carry out her day to day duties at work. Instead of finding ways to support and assist her in fulfilling her duties, Starbucks accused her of falsifying records and treated her unfavourably.
The Tribunal also said Ms Kumulchew had been victimised and there appeared to be little or no knowledge or understanding of equality issues from Starbuck. Some proper investigation and advice might have highlighted how the role could have been adjusted; it was its duty to take such steps as it is reasonable to take to avoid the disadvantage.


Whether dyslexia is deemed to be a disability under the Equality Act 2010 definition will be dependent upon the severity of the individual’s condition. If it has “substantial” effects on his/her ability to carry out normal day-day activities then it will likely be a disability. If not, then it will likely not be. Dyslexia generally presents difficulties with words and numbers and sufferers need to be shown how to do tasks visually.
This is an area where each case will need to be reviewed on its own facts. Please contact the British Dyslexia Association for more information and/or advice on Dyslexia.


Laura Mariani

Laura Mariani

Best Selling Author, Speaker, Change & Transformation Expert


Hi there, I hope you enjoyed this post. Please do provide me with feedback.

I want to hear ‘the good, the bad and the ugly’. If you disagree with me or want to provide a different perspective, leave a comment. Tell me what’s on your mind.

Do remember though to be respectful and kind – we can agree to disagree, no need to be nasty. Thank you.


Laura xxx

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in my posts are ‘affiliate links‘. This means that if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission, for example as an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. This is at no extra cost to you. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and absolutely would recommend to my readers.


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This

Share This

Share this post with your friends!