Charity unfairly dismissed dyslexic worker over spelling errors

A dyslexic charity worker was unfairly dismissed after making spelling errors that led to him being denied a new role.

James Bulloss had worked as an adviser for the homeless charity Shelter. His role included working night shifts and weekends to work on the phone help lines.

After three years he requested to join the webchat team and was given a four-week trial.

His team leader, Ms Jackson, spotted several spelling and grammatical mistakes in his discussions with the site’s users.

After being off ill for a week, Bulloss told Jackson that working the webchat had taken it out of him but that he didn’t want to return to phone work as he would have to work nights and weekends.

A few weeks later during a routine review, Jackson decided that while the advice Bulloss gave clients was good, there were several mistakes in his spelling, grammar and the general writing. She gave him one more week to improve.

Jackson emailed the HR advisor, Marie Primarolo for advice on dealing with dyslexia. Primarolo didn’t have much information but commented: “It is strange it is only coming to light now he does not want to go back to shift working.”

Bulloss requested leave due to fatigue four days later and when he returned the following week, he was told he was being moved back to telephone only work.

He took a month off work due to anxiety and when he returned, he revealed he had been diagnosed with dyslexia and requested phased return to work and adjustments.

This was granted but after a week he continued to feel unwell and asked the operations manager, Ms Deakin, if his dyslexia was the reason he couldn’t return to webchat.

Deakin had emailed the union representative to ask: “Why would we invest money for reasonable adjustments that are not necessary because his dyslexia does not affect his ability to perform effectively on the phone?”

Bulloss was told that adjustments for his dyslexia hadn’t been made as there had been no diagnosis at the time but that he would not be moved back to webchat. 

He resigned and brought a claim against the charity, saying they had failed to make reasonable adjustments.

The Tribunal ruled that he was unfairly dismissed and discriminated against due to his disability.

The judge said: “While the employer had a discretion to deploy the claimant where it thought fit, it is clear from the internal correspondence which has now been seen that the respondent (Shelter) wished to avoid its duty by simply returning the claimant to voice work.”

Bullos was awarded £28,324 compensation.

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