Dyslexic Employee Wins Disability Suit

First a definition:

Dyslexia is a brain-based type of learning disability that specifically impairs a person’s ability to read. These individuals typically read at levels significantly lower than expected despite having normal intelligence. Although the disorder varies from person to person, common characteristics among people with dyslexia are difficulty with phonological processing (the manipulation of sounds), spelling, and/or rapid visual-verbal responding. In individuals with adult onset of dyslexia, it usually occurs as a result of brain injury or in the context of dementia; this contrasts with individuals with dyslexia who simply were never identified as children or adolescents.  Dyslexia can be inherited in some families, and recent studies have identified a number of genes that may predispose an individual to developing dyslexia.”

I wanted to post this definition given a disability case which I just read about arising in the UK.

Barrier, Disability, United Nations

An employee with dyslexia sued Starbucks claiming that she was “accused by [it] of falsifying documents and demoted, which she said left her feeling suicidal.  She told an employment tribunal that she had recorded incorrect information by mistake, and that she had always made it known that she was dyslexic and so has difficulties with words and numbers.”

Apparently, the employer didn’t know or understand what dyslexia is.

The Employment Tribunal held that Starbucks failed to make “reasonable adjustments” for the employee’s disability.  Significantly, it “also found she had been victimised by her employer, which it said appeared to have little or no knowledge or understanding of equality issues.”

Takeaway:  As employers and lawyers we can not be expected to know or understand every medical condition, disease or disability.  However, we are expected to know about the anti-discrimination laws and their application to people with disabilities.  And if we don’t, we are expected to find out and learn.


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Richard Cohen

Richard B. Cohen is a partner in the New York City office of FisherBroyles, LLP, a national law firm. Richard Cohen has litigated and arbitrated complex corporate, commercial and employment disputes for more than 35 years, and is a trusted advisor to business owners and in-house counsel both in the United States and internationally. His clients have included Fortune 100 companies, domestic and foreign commercial and investment banks, Pacific-rim corporations and real estate development companies, as well as start-up businesses throughout the United States. Email Richard at [email protected]