Starbucks not so starry

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By Katie King on

Coffee powerhouse in the doghouse


As if it hasn’t got enough to worry about with allegations of not paying its fair share of UK taxes, Starbucks has come under fire again.

This time the global powerhouse is embroiled in an Equality Act row involving a dyslexic employee.

The coffee shop chain has been dragged through the employment tribunal system after Meseret Kumulchew, a supervisor at one of the company’s London branches, hit back at Starbucks’ accusations that she had falsified documents — and she won.

Kumulchew said she had misread numbers that she had been recording, such as water and fridge temperatures, because of her severe dyslexia — a protected disability under the Equality Act. The store reduced her responsibilities and made her retrain, which, she claimed, caused her intense emotional upset.

Kumulchew told the BBC that she loves her job at the Clapham shop, and that she nearly ended her life because of the whole fiasco. Saying that “for every customer I’ll roll out the red carpet,” she added:

I know I’m not a fraud. I just made a mistake.

The tribunal found in her favour in December, ruling that the multi-billion pound high street chain had failed to make reasonable adjustments for the dyslexia sufferer, a legal requirement under section 20 of the Equality Act. In the next couple of weeks, Kumulchew will find out the value of her payout, which could well be pretty hefty.

The Seattle-based coffee chain has responded to the judgment, noting that it is committed to having a “diverse and inclusive workforce”. A spokesperson for Starbucks said:

We are in ongoing discussions with this Starbucks partner (employee) around specific workplace support and we are not able to comment on a case that has not yet been completed.

One last thought. Given that the claimant in this case seemed to have more trouble with numbers than words, aren’t we talking about dyscalculia?