Disability Discrimination Due to the Effects of Dyslexia

legal-postAn Employment Tribunal has found that an employer discriminated against their employee by not taking their dyslexia into account during their disciplinary process.

Kumulchew v Starbucks provides an illustration of how failing to consider disabilities in the working environment may result in disability discrimination claims.  Unlike other protected characteristics, disability requires employee’s to proactively look to make reasonable adjustments where an impairment exists.  This is obviously a divergence from the common English usage of the word discrimination.

In this case the employee was accused of falsifying records of fridge temperatures.  The tribunal found that once the employee had raised their disability the employer was under a duty to deal with the matter in accordance with their internal policies, in particular their reasonable adjustments policy.  As the employer did not take the disability into consideration and did not provide a reason for this the tribunal concluded that the employee’s claim for discrimination was well founded.

Although some see the case as recognition of the problems endured by dyslexia sufferers in the workplace, dyslexia remains firmly is the realm of the medical model of disability rather than the social model.  With the social model certain conditions, such as cancer, automatically qualify as a disability regardless of the effects on the sufferer.  With the medical model, to be a disability the higher hurdle of a physical or mental impairment, where the impairment has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on the ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities, must be met.

It is important that employers consider any potential disability and their duty to provide reasonable adjustments in all workplace activity.   This consideration applies not only when an employee claims to have an impairment but also when it would be reasonable for the employer to assume that an impairment exits.

Jim Taylor LLM – 23 February 2016

The opinion given in this article is for general information only and is intended to illustrate and highlight themes which may affect employers and their employees. It should not be taken as specific advice on any situation or the appropriate course of action for any particular company or employer. Should you wish to discuss a similar situation or any other matter please contact Ascent HR Limited. ©Ascent HR Limited.

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