Starbucks is dealing with the fallout after a dyslexic employee successfully sued it for disability discrimination. She had been accused of falsifying documents when she mistakenly entered the wrong temperature details on an internal record.
The case highlights the wide range of conditions which can count as a disability under discrimination legislation. Employers have a duty to make reasonable adjustments to reduce the disadvantages suffered by disabled employees - and that duty applies equally in the course of disciplinary proceedings.
Disputes (and damaging Employment Tribunal defeats) can often be avoided with clear communication at the outset. If an employee discloses a long-standing medical condition, it's often safest for the employer to assume that the employee could fit within the legal definition of disability and take steps to make appropriate adjustments. This requires an understanding of the impact of the condition on the employee. While it may be necessary to take medical advice, often the best way of getting that understanding is discussion with the employee themselves. This requires a workplace culture where employees feel able to talk openly and honestly about something as personal as a medical condition. That's something that needs to be embedded in the organisation as a whole.
While many of us rely on a cup of coffee to wake us up in the morning, this case will hopefully serve as a wake-up call to employers not to try to brush disability issues under the carpet but to foster an open and inclusive workplace culture.
telling your boss that you have dyslexia sucks, there's no way to sugar coat that.