Ruling

19620-23 Bryce v Daily Mail

    • Date complaint received

      14th December 2023

    • Outcome

      No breach - after investigation

    • Code provisions

      1 Accuracy, 12 Discrimination

Decision of the Complaints Committee – 19620-23 Bryce v Daily Mail


Summary of Complaint

1. Raymond Byrce complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that Daily Mail breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) and Clause 12 (Discrimination) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “Being dyslexic like me is never an excuse for being late”, published on 15 March 2023.

2. The article was a first-person comment piece on the writer’s experience of having dyslexia, including being bullied at school by her peers. She contrasted her own experiences with those of the complainant, who had taken his former employer to tribunal for discrimination due to his own dyslexia. The writer said her dyslexia, “played havoc with scheduling since, like many dyslexics, I can struggle to read analogue clocks”, but despite the fact “dyslexia has made my life trickier, and at times felt humiliating, it has also made me determined.”

3. The writer stated, “I was insistent my dyslexia would not be a reason to fail, or be unprepared, or late — that I wouldn’t always be seen as the ‘thicko’ who needed extra time in everyday life as well as the exam hall. But I fear this is exactly the negative view that has been given credence by the result, delivered this week, of a discrimination lawsuit brought by a dyslexic security guard against his employer.” The article named the individual and said he “accused his boss of discrimination for firing him for serial lateness”. She went on to state “being punctual is about respecting those around you. Because, no matter who you are, you can’t expect your employers — or life — to wait for you. To do so would be rude, which is nothing to do with being dyslexic.”

4. The article also appeared online in substantively the same from under the headline, “Being dyslexic like me is never an excuse for being late: My two sons and I suffer from the disorder, but we don’t let it be our reason for failure.”

5. The complainant, who was the claimant in the employment tribunal, said the article breached Clause 1 as it gave a misleading impression of the tribunal’s ruling. He said the article omitted to mention that he also had Aspergers syndrome, and that this was a factor in the outcome of the tribunal.

6. The complainant provided IPSO with the tribunal’s judgement. The tribunal referred to the fact the complainant had informed his employer that “because of his dyslexia, he sometimes misread the time on his alarm clock and he needed flexibility over this start times.” It also said, “the claimant gave evidence that the dyslexia affects his reading, writing, arithmetic and memory recall” and that “the difficulty with time keeping he explained is an effect of dyslexia but the knock-on effects in terms of his anxiety and the resulting impact on his behaviours is the effect of the interplay with Asperger’s Syndrome.” The complainant had also noted, “because of his dyslexia, he sometimes misread the time on his alarm clock and he needed flexibility over his start times”. The tribunal found, “the problems [the complainant] had with his timekeeping and ability to plan was “the main reason for the decision not to offer [the complainant] more shifts”.

7. The complainant disputed the writer’s comment that, "no matter who you are, you can't expect your employers - or life - to wait for you. To do so would be rude, which is nothing to do with being dyslexic”. He said he had not asked for people to wait because he was rude; he said it was because of his dyslexia. He also expressed concern the articles created the misleading impression he had acted dishonestly by requesting adjustments to his working conditions he considered he was entitled to by law.

8. The complainant also said the article was in breach of Clause 12 because of the writer’s remarks that she was “insistent” her “dyslexia would not be a reason to fail” and that she “wouldn’t always be seen as the ‘thicko’ who needed extra time in everyday life as well as the exam hall” and she “fear[ed] this “negative view” had been given credence by the result of the complainant’s discrimination lawsuit”. He said the comments about dyslexia were hurtful and the reference to his tribunal implied as a person who has dyslexia he was a “thicko”.

9. The publication did not accept it had breached Clause 1, and considered the report of the tribunal to be accurate. It said the article was specifically concerned with the impact of dyslexia on planning and time management, and the consequent need for flexible start times, and so it was not inaccurate to omit to mention the complainant’s Aspergers.

10. The publication also did not accept there were inaccuracies in the following passage: "no matter who you are, you can't expect your employers - or life - to wait for you. To do so would be rude, which is nothing to do with being dyslexic". It argued that the opinion expressed in the article – that being late is rude express regardless of whether someone has dyslexia – was the writer’s view and she was entitled to express it. It rejected the allegation the article implied the complainant was dishonest or fraudulent. It said the article made clear the tribunal found the complainant was late because of his dyslexia, and at no point did the writer claim the complainant did not have the condition.

11. The publication did not accept the article was in breach of Clause 12. It said the article did not contain pejorative, prejudicial or irrelevant references to the complainant’s disability. Instead, it said the complainant’s concern was that the article reported his employment tribunal in a way that he disagreed with – which, in and of itself, was not a breach of the Code.

Relevant Clause Provisions

Clause 1 (Accuracy)

i) The Press must take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted information or images, including headlines not supported by the text.

ii) A significant inaccuracy, misleading statement or distortion must be corrected, promptly and with due prominence, and — where appropriate — an apology published. In cases involving IPSO, due prominence should be as required by the regulator.

iii) A fair opportunity to reply to significant inaccuracies should be given, when reasonably called for.

iv) The Press, while free to editorialise and campaign, must distinguish clearly between comment, conjecture and fact.

Clause 12 (Discrimination)

i) The press must avoid prejudicial or pejorative reference to an individual's, race, colour, religion, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation or to any physical or mental illness or disability.

ii) Details of an individual's race, colour, religion, gender identity, sexual orientation, physical or mental illness or disability must be avoided unless genuinely relevant to the story.

Findings of the Committee

12. It had been stated during the employment tribunal that the complainant had informed his manager that “because of his dyslexia, he sometimes misread the time on his alarm clock and he needed flexibility over his start times.” The tribunal ultimately found, “the problems [the complainant] had with his timekeeping and ability to plan” were “the main reason for the decision not to offer [the complainant] more shifts”, which the tribunal found was discriminatory. The complainant had also stated his “difficulty with time keeping he explained [was] an effect of dyslexia but the knock-on effects in terms of his anxiety and the resulting impact on his behaviours” was “the effect of the interplay with Asperger’s Syndrome.” Where the complainant had explicitly cited his dyslexia as the reason for his difficulty with timekeeping, and where this had been referenced by the tribunal, the Committee did not consider it inaccurate for the article to omit to mention that the complainant also had Aspergers, in the context of a piece which was focused on dyslexia and its relationship to timekeeping. There was no breach of Clause 1 on this point.

13. The Committee considered whether there was an inaccuracy regarding the writer’s comment “no matter who you are, you can’t expect your employers — or life — to wait for you. To do so would be rude, which is nothing to do with being dyslexic.” The complainant’s position was that his difficulties with time keeping were due to his dyslexia, rather than rudeness. The Committee noted that the article had not stated as fact that the complainant had asked for adjustments because he was rude rather than dyslexic, or stated that the complainant himself was rude. Instead, the article expressed the writer’s opinion that asking “employers — or life — to wait for you” was “rude”. Whether or not something is “rude” is clearly subjective. Particularly in the context of a comment piece, the writer was entitled to express her opinion, and while the complainant may disagree or find it offensive and distasteful, it was not misleading to report it. There was no breach of the Code on this point.

14. The Committee considered whether the article inaccurately implied the complainant had acted in any way dishonestly by requesting reasonable adjustments. While the writer said she thought the outcome of the tribunal was “ridiculous”, at no point did she state that this was because the complainant had been in any way deceptive. In fact, she made clear she agreed with the complainant that dyslexia made time keeping difficult; she referred extensively her own struggles with punctuality as a result of the condition. The writer was not saying the complainant had been dishonest by pursuing reasonable adjustments, or that he was not legally entitled to them, but rather was stating her own opinion on the result of the tribunal. There was no breach of Clause 1 on this point.

15. The Committee appreciated the article’s the depiction of the dyslexia and the complainant’s tribunal was hurtful to him. While it had sympathy for the complainant’s concerns about the article, the fact the complainant found the depiction of his tribunal and the writer’s comments about dyslexia upsetting did not in itself give rise to a breach of the Code. In order to establish whether Clause 12 had been breached, the Committee considered whether the insult “thicko” – which was clearly pejorative – was directed at the complainant’s disability. The Committee considered this comment to be about the “negative view”, of those with dyslexia held by some, where people with the condition are “seen” as a “thicko[s]” needing “extra time in everyday life as well as the exam hall”. The writer “insisted” she would not be regarded this way, but feared this perception would be “given credence” by the tribunal. The Committee considered, therefore that the writer was commenting on the potentially negative perception of those with dyslexia as a consequence of the tribunal’s outcome, rather than referring to the complainant himself as a “thicko” due to his dyslexia. The Committee therefore did not consider the article to contain pejorative reference to the complainant’s disability and there was no breach of Clause 12 on this point.

Conclusions

16. The complaint was not upheld.

Remedial action required

17. N/A


Date complaint received: 26/06/2023

Date complaint concluded by IPSO: 16/11/2023


Independent Complaints Reviewer

The complainant complained to the Independent Complaints Reviewer about the process followed by IPSO in handling this complaint. The Independent Complaints Reviewer decided that the process was not flawed and did not uphold the request for review.