Duty to Accommodate, Made Easy

21 Feb Duty to Accommodate, Made Easy

During Vital Partners’ recent panel discussion on Disability Management, panelists Jill Wilkie of Miller Thompson, Carol Laisnez of Dynamic Insight Corp., and Alannah Turner of Salopek Associates Inc considered duty to accommodate and provided examples of how these manifest in the workplace.

Under Human Rights Legislation, a person with a disability has the right to equal treatment in employment without discrimination.

There are three principals of accommodation: respect for dignity, individualization, integration and full participation.

Employers must take the necessary steps required to accommodate employees with disabilities as long as the accommodation does not constitute undue hardship on employer. The bigger the employer, the bigger the duty to accommodate.

Employers make every effort to accommodate an ill or injured employee and documenting all efforts/research/meeting notes in employee file. At the Human Rights tribunal level, the panel wants to see that the employer not only thought of accommodation, but that the employer communicated these methods of possible accommodation to the employee.

Types of accommodation may include the following:

  • Structural changes to workplace (technical or human support)
  • Modified job duties
  • Flexible work schedule
  • Alternate ways of communicating
  • Flexible policies, procedures

What to do in the event of a disability?

  • Don’t assume that the employee is taking advantage of you.
  • Obtain a list of health restrictions from a health care worker. The Human Rights Commission has published a handy guide, Obtaining and responding to medical information in the workplace: A summary for doctors. It outlines the process and type of information that can and should be released by an attending physician.
  • Employers don’t typically get a lot of information, so it’s important to keep the lines of communication open with the employee and the attending physician.
  • Involve the employee in the conversation regarding how they can be accommodated.