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Starbucks Employee With Dyslexia Fights Back After Discriminatory Incident

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A woman with dyslexia has won a disability discrimination case in England against Starbucks.

Meseret Kumulchew, a supervisor at a Starbucks in south-west London, was accused of falsifying documents after she accidentally wrote incorrect figures while recording refrigeration temperatures and times. When the company discovered this, Kumulchew was penalized and demoted, the BBC reported.

An employment tribunal in December found Starbucks had failed to make reasonable adjustments for Kumulchew’s disability and discriminated against her because of it, despite knowing she was dyslexic. Kumulchew says she’d asked her employers to teach her visually and even requested her answers be checked while she was learning. The tribunal also found that there appeared to be little knowledge of Kumulchew’s right to reasonable accommodations under the U.K.’s Equality Act of 2010. A hearing will soon be held to determine whether or not Starbucks will owe Kumulchew any compensation.

Kumulchew says the accusations and treatment from her employer left her upset and experiencing suicidal thoughts.

I am not a fraud. The name ‘fraud’ itself shouldn’t exist for me,” Kumulchew told the BBC. “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.”

People with dyslexia often learn differently than other people.

“People with dyslexia are wired with diverse brains,” Andrew Friedman, CEO of Learning Ally, a nonprofit supporting students with learning disabilities, told The Mighty in an email. “They may have more difficulty with reading and spelling, but they bring a host of talents and strengths to the table. With the right understanding and accommodations, they can be tremendous assets for any company.”

In the United States, somewhere between 5 to 17 percent of school-age children are dyslexic, according to the Yale Center for Dyslexia and Creativity.

“Even though dyslexia is such a prevalent condition, there is still a huge gulf of awareness extending from classrooms to the workplace,” Friedman told The Mighty. “Employers need to think beyond usual notions of diversity and embrace what leading researchers are telling us about neurodiversity.”

Starbucks said in a statement it is having discussions around specific workplace support and is not able to comment on a case that has not yet been completed, but is committed to having a “diverse and inclusive workforce,” the BBC reported.

Related: This Man Invented a Font to Help People With Dyslexia Read

If you or someone you know needs help, please visit the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. You can also reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741. Head here for a list of crisis centers around the world.

The Crisis Text Line is looking for volunteers! If you’re interesting in becoming a Crisis Counselor, you can learn more information here.

Originally published: February 10, 2016
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