Starbucks dyslexia case: Employee wins tribunal over victimisation that left her suicidal

'I am not a fraud. It’s quite serious. I nearly ended my life'

A woman with dyslexia who worked at Starbucks says she nearly tried to kill herself because the coffee giant treated her so badly because it did not understand her condition. 

A tribunal found Meseret Kumulchew was discriminated case against after her condition led to her making mistakes on forms.

Her difficulty with reading, writing and telling the time - which she says she had always made clear to her employer - led to her supervisor duties being reduced, leaving her with suicidal feelings.  

Speaking to the BBC, she said: “There was a point where I wanted to commit suicide. I am not a fraud. It’s quite serious. I nearly ended my life. But I had to think of my kids. I Know I’m not a fraud. I just made a mistake.”

Ms Kumulchew worked at a branch in Clapham, south-west London, where her job involved recording temperatures of water and fridges at certain times of the day and writing them on a duty roster.

She said she needed to be shown how to do tasks visually, as she was a visual learner and stressed the most important thing that could be done was to “apply what Starbucks say - ‘do show and tell’ - which works brilliantly for me as I can do it physically”.

She added that the company should have “brought in the Dyslexia Association” and that having someone check what she had done would have helped her.

The tribunal found Starbucks did not make any reasonable adjustments to help her do her job and instead discriminated against her and victimised her.

Starbucks said in a statement: “Starbucks works hard to ensure all employees, including those with disabilities, are supported at work. 

"We have been working with the British Dyslexia Association on improving the support we provide to our employees, and did so concerning Meseret Kumulchew in 2015. 

"We recognise however that we need to do more, which is why we are investigating what additional support we can provide. 

"We cannot comment further on this case as the matter has not concluded.” 

The CEO of the British Dyslexia Association, Dr Kate Saunders, said: “Many dyslexics are struggling in the work place with very high levels of anxiety, because employers do not have the training or the awareness to make adjustments for them.”

Dyslexia is identified as a disability, as defined in the Equality Act 2010.

According to Lexxic, which provides services for adults with learning difficulties in the workplace, 1 in 10 people in the UK has dyslexia, while 1 in 4 of those suffer with severe dyslexia.