Employer’s Duty to Accommodate

Under the Ontario Human Rights Code, employers in Ontario have a duty to accommodate the needs of employees living with disabilities. Every person in Ontario is entitled to equal treatment regarding employment. This means that discrimination, both direct and indirect, is prohibited. Employers are not permitted to mandate policies, practices or rules that exclude an individual from being able to participate in the workplace.

In Ontario, employers are required to take reasonable steps to ensure that they have fulfilled their duty to accommodate their employees’ needs. If you believe your employer has not fulfilled their duties, and this has resulted in a termination of your employment, contact our employment lawyers today for a free consultation to see how we may be of assistance.

What Is an Employer’s Duty to Accommodate in Ontario?

An employer is required by law to adjust the rules, policies and/or practices of their workplace in order to allow their employees to participate fully in their employment. An employer is not required to change their workplace fundamentally, and they are not required to undergo undue hardship in order to accommodate an employee. They are, however, required to act within reason to ensure the dignity and individual needs of their employees are upheld.

What Are Examples of Duty to Accommodate?

Accommodating an individual’s needs typically means adjusting workplace policies and/or infrastructure in order to ensure their working situation does not hinder their ability to do their job as a result of a disability.

As the needs of individual employees vary, so too will the kinds of accommodations an employer may reasonably be expected to provide. Examples may include:

  • Accessible entrances
  • Accessible bathrooms
  • Scent-free workplace policies
  • Braille inscriptions on signage for individuals with vision impairments
  • Fire alarms with flashing lights for employees who are Deaf or hard of hearing
  • Software that accommodates for vision loss, e.g. adjustable font sizes
  • Quiet space for employees requiring low-stimuli environments
  • And more

What Is an Example of Undue Hardship in Employment Law?

While employers have a duty to accommodate their employees, they are expected to do so within reasonable limits. If an employer would experience significant barriers to the well-being of their business in order to accommodate a specific need, they may claim undue hardship. If accommodating an employee comes at a prohibitive cost, or poses health and safety risks, the employer may have a case for having no choice but to let the employee go.

Can an Employer Fire Me if Accommodation Is Not Possible?

An employer can sometimes find alternative tasks or roles for an employee, if they cannot accommodate someone in their position. However, depending on the situation, an employer may be faced with undue hardship in attempting to accommodate, in which case, they may argue that they have no choice but to fire the employee. If you are in a situation involving a failure to accommodate, contact a Toronto employment lawyer to learn more about your rights.

What Does the Ontario Human Rights Code Say About an Employer’s Duty to Accommodate?

The Ontario Human Rights Code stipulates that “employers and unions, housing providers and service providers have a legal duty to accommodate the needs of people with disabilities who are adversely affected by a requirement, rule or standard.” The purpose of this mandated duty is to ensure equal opportunities are afforded to all people. This means that individuals with disabilities should have equal access to participating fully in the workplace.

What Are Protected Grounds in Ontario in Employment Law?

Under the Ontario Human Rights Code, individuals are entitled to freedom from discrimination in the five social areas of employment, unions, vocational associations, contracts, and housing. It is against the law in Ontario to discriminate against a person on the following protected grounds:

  • Age
  • Ancestry
  • Race
  • Colour
  • Ethnic origin
  • Citizenship
  • Place of origin
  • Creed
  • Disability
  • Family status
  • Marital status
  • Sexual orientation
  • Gender identity, gender expression
  • Sex (including pregnancy and breastfeeding)
  • Receipt of public assistance (in housing only)
  • Record of offences (in employment only)

If you believe you have been discriminated against on any of the protected grounds, speak with a Toronto employment lawyer today.

What Happens if an Employer Fails to Uphold Their Duty to Accommodate?

If an employer fails to uphold their duty to accommodate in Ontario, the result may be a constructive dismissal. If you have been constructively dismissed, you may have the right to proper compensation for your loss of employment.

What Is a Bona Fide Occupational Requirement?

The bona fide occupational requirement is a standard or requirement that is essential to the fulfillment of certain duties in an employment position. For example, the nature of a construction worker’s duties may require them to be able to lift a certain amount of weight. In order to justify a termination connected to a bona fide occupational requirement, an employer will likely need to demonstrate that this requirement is integral to the job, and that changing the requirement would cause undue hardship to the business.

When Should I Speak With an Employment Lawyer About My Employer’s Failure to Accommodate?

If you feel you have not been accommodated at work, you should know your rights in this regard. Speak to a Toronto employment lawyer as soon as possible. Our team at Howie, Sacks & Henry LLP would be happy to listen to your questions and concerns and see how we may be of service in helping protect your legal rights.

Will Speaking With an Employment Lawyer Threaten My Job?

If you are worried that speaking with an employment lawyer might threaten your job, be assured that your conversation with our Toronto employment lawyers will be confidential.

How Can an Employment Lawyer Help Me in a Case Involving an Employer’s Duty to Accommodate?

A Toronto employment lawyer will review the facts of your situation, ask clarifying questions, and offer legal advice as to possible courses of action. If applicable, we can assist you in seeking compensation for your job loss due to an employer’s failure to accommodate.

Contact Our Employment Law Lawyers Today For a No Charge Consultation

An employer in Ontario has certain responsibilities before their employees. It is in an employee’s best interest to understand their legal rights. To schedule a no charge consultation with Howie, Sacks & Henry LLP and discuss the particulars of your situation, contact us today.

*Please be advised that the content of this article is intended as a general overview on the subject of an employer’s duty to accommodate in Ontario, and should not be construed as legal advice. For legal advice, please consult with an employment lawyer.

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