A question was posed in response to a blog one of my colleagues, Louise Shea, posted a few days ago, “What is the employer’s duty to accommodate?” Throughout my work in Vocational Rehabilitation, this question has been asked many times. I have had to answer this from both the employer and worker angle/perspective.

Based on the Human Rights Code, ALL people have the right to respect and equal treatment in ALL aspects of job search as well as on the job. Employers are required to accommodate candidates during the interview process so that they can participate along with any other candidate. Those requiring accommodations should keep in mind that they should only disclose the accommodations required and not their specific medical conditions or disabilities. Some believe that they are obligated to disclose these barriers; however, by providing medical information to a potential employer you leave him/her vulnerable or at risk for potential claims under the Human Rights Code.

The right to equal treatment goes hand-in-hand with the worker’s right to accommodation in the workplace. Should a current employee be unable to fulfill the essential duties of a job, due to a medical condition or disability (visible or non-visible), the employer must institute a solution that allows the person to participate in the workplace. It is mandated by the Code that each person’s situation be looked at individually so that their solution will best suit their individual needs.

As part of this, the employee is responsible to inform the employer of the need for accommodation, take part in the solutions and implementation process, and keep the employer informed as to progress or changes required to the accommodation.

The employer has a right to know what accommodation is required but does not need to have information about the disability itself. He/she must also “accept the claim on good faith” and proof of the disability is not required. Should he/she request medical evidence: e.g.  request a doctor’s note (at the employer’s expense) – the document should only contain functional abilities and required accommodations. The employer has a duty to ensure implementation of the accommodation and all details related to the situation are “need to know” to maintain worker confidentiality.

One stipulation to an employer’s duty to accommodate is if the accommodation causes “undue hardship” for the employer. Should the “cost of the accommodation… alter the nature or affect the viability of the business or present health or safety risks to workers or members of the public… so serious that they outweigh the benefits of providing equal treatment to the worker…” then the employer is not required to implement the accommodation.

I hope this blog helps answer your question – please feel to comment below!

by Tracy King, Guest Blogger for Agilec

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