The Duty to Accommodate is triggered when employees become ill or injured or require special arrangements for a “protected ground” under the Human Rights Code (some examples are Religion and Family Status).
Accommodation is a fundamental and integral part of the right to equal treatment and may require changes to terms and conditions of the workplace or job functions to help a worker overcome their limitations and allow them to perform their job functions.
Most importantly, accommodations must be highly individualized and tailored to the employee’s specific needs and must respect dignity of the employee being accommodated.
All workplace parties have obligations to accommodate a disability: the Employer, the Employee, and the Union, if any.
The Employer is ultimately responsible for the outcome of the accommodation process, and their obligations (also Union obligations) are to inquire about/identify the need for accommodation, initiate and take the lead in search for solutions, and work with workplace parties (i.e., union, managers, health and safety committee/rep) to implement solutions.
Similarly, the Employee’s obligations are to raise the need for accommodation (particularly where the need for accommodation is not “obvious”, such as a mental health or addiction issue); participate in search for solution(s); try proposed accommodations unless unsafe to do so; suggest changes to accommodations if needed; and provide necessary medical information.
Often I hear the complaint from employees that requests for medical information are “an invasion of privacy”. This is not true. Employees are required to provide evidence to support that they are entitled to the accommodation being requested.
Examples of accommodations include, but are not limited to, modification of existing job duties, assignment to other tasks or removing some tasks, assignment to another job (i.e., a vacant position you can move the employee into).
What an employer need not do:
Ask other employees to assume unacceptable health and safety risks
Ask other employees to tolerate excessive hardship as a result of changed duties
Accept an employee’s failure to participate in their own accommodation or improve their own abilities, where possible.
For more information, use this link to the Ontario Human Rights Commission:
9. More about disability-related accommodation | Ontario Human Rights Commission (ohrc.on.ca)