When it comes to accommodation in the workplace, both employers and employees have certain rights and responsibilities. When an individual discloses to their employer that they have a disability for which they need accommodation, there are certain criteria that must be met. The following information was adapted from the Ontario Human Rights Commission Website.
Roles and Responsibilities
It is the responsibility of persons with disABILITIES to:
- inform their employers of their needs
- cooperate in obtaining necessary information, including medical or other expert opinions
- participate in discussions about solutions
- work with the employer and union on an ongoing basis to manage the accommodation process
Unions and professional associations must:
- take an active role as partners in the accommodation process
- share joint responsibility with the employer to promote accommodation
- support accommodation measures regardless of the collective agreement
Employers are required to:
- accept requests for accommodation in good faith;
- request only information that is required to make the accommodation;
- obtain expert advice or opinion where necessary;
- take an active role in ensuring that possible solutions are examined;
- maintain the confidentiality of persons with disabilities;
- deal with accommodation requests in a timely way, and
- bear the cost of any required medical information or documentation.
The Ontario Human Rights Code prescribes three considerations in assessing whether an accommodation would cause undue hardship - Cost, Outside sources of funding, Health and Safety requirements.
A cost is 'undue' if it is so high that it affects the survival of the organization or business, or changes its essential nature. Such costs must be quantifiable and can include costs such as capital and operating costs and the cost of re-structuring. Human rights law recognizes that different businesses have different financial circumstances. What may be an 'undue cost' for a small business, may not be undue for a larger one. If the accommodation requires the business to fundamentally change what the business does, that may also be 'undue'.
Outside Sources of Funding
Accommodation funds (often available in the public sector), as well as government grants or loans, can offset some costs, and should be considered in assessing undue hardship. If the cost of an accommodation is too large to carry out all at once, it may be possible to phase it in over time, or to create a reserve fund.
Health and Safety
Factors may limit the accommodation that is possible. However, it must first be decided whether any applicable health and safety requirements can be waived or modified, or if alternatives can be found to protect health and safety. If Ontario health and safety laws do not allow a health and safety requirement to be waived, equivalent safety measures can still be used.
If the person with a disability wants to take on some degree of risk, this may be acceptable provided he or she is fully informed of the risk and there is no risk to anyone else. No one is entitled to assume a real and serious risk if there is a demonstrable probability of substantial harm to anyone.
For a list of community and government agencies that may be able to assist with providing accommodations or information about accommodations, in the workplace visit our Resources page.