Accommodation in the Workplace and Pregnancy: A Case Review

Accommodation in the Workplace and Pregnancy: A Case Review

In a recent arbitration between The Town of Ajax and Ajax Professional Fire Fighters’ Association, Local 1092, the grievor, Natalie Badame, a suppression firefighter, claimed the town violated the collective agreement, and the Human Rights Code, by failing to assign her altered duties on her agreed 24 hour shift as part of an accommodation for her pregnancy. (The grievor was unable to respond to emergency calls, among other duties).

The employer had a standard accommodation policy for firefighters who require accommodation for extended periods of time, which was in part, to move them to a day shift. The employer assigned the grievor duties on the day shift as per the standard accommodation procedure. The grievor then filed a suit alleging discrimination on the basis of sex and family status.

The grievor argued that flexible childcare was not a preference, but a need, and in her opinion, the accommodation offer from the employer was not appropriate for her situation. The employer had discussed various accommodation options and modified duties with the grievor throughout the process. Ultimately the town decided to stick with the status quo procedure and assign modified duties on the day shift, with no loss in wages.

Once the claim was filed against the employer, the parties met again to discuss potential options, including taking time off through vacation and getting additional time to find alternative solutions before the new shift began. Needless to say, the case proceeded to arbitration.

It was found that the employer fulfilled their duty to accommodate. Employers are not required to back-fill jobs that can’t be done by the employee seeking accommodation. It was also established that employers are not required to alter the job itself or the nature of the work to suit the employee.

There are powerful takeaways here, which demonstrate the limits to the duty of employers to accommodate employees in certain situations.

To learn more about this case and ruling, follow the link:

Ajax Professional Fire Fighers’ Association, Local 1092 v Ajax (Town), 2019 CanLII 69278 (ON LA), <http://canlii.ca/t/j1pk9>, retrieved on 2019-09-13

What Employers can do for Due Diligence:

According to a policy from the Ontario Human Rights Commission on the duty to accommodate, in order to best prepare for an accommodation, employers should:

  • Understand that the duty to accommodate is informed by three principles: respect for dignity, individualization, and integration and full participation.
  • Understand that each and every accommodation case is unique and should be treated accordingly.
  • Work with an expert accommodation provider or Occupational Therapist on an ongoing basis to manage the accommodation process.
  • Accept requests for accommodation in good faith, and take an active role in exploring traditional, and alternative solutions.
  • Conduct open discussions about possible accommodation solutions to gain more insight.
  • Be aware that an accommodation may be necessary even in cases where the employee has not made a formal request.
  • Implement accommodations in a timely manner.
  • Be discreet, respectful, and maintain trust and confidentiality.

How Gowan Consulting Can Help:

  • Provide support for policy and procedures development.
  • Train managers and employees on the duty to accommodate.
  • Provide objective Occupational Therapy assessments for accommodation requests.

If you would like to learn more about workplace accommodations, please check out our services for Providing Early Intervention and Return to Work planning.

Gowan Consulting has many resources to assist employees with accommodation concerns.

If you’d like to learn more about workplace accommodations or return to work, book one of our upcoming fall workshops today to secure your spot, and take advantage of our early-bird pricing! Registration closes on the 18th September for our Mental Health and Return to Work workshop.

We also have webinars on Accommodation, Mental Health, Return to Work and several other topics if self-learning is more your thing!

Want to know how we can assist you personally in the workplace? Contact Us!

Works cited:

Ajax Professional Fire Fighers’ Association, Local 1092 v Ajax (Town), 2019 CanLII 69278 (ON LA), <http://canlii.ca/t/j1pk9>, retrieved on 2019-09-13

Ontario Human Rights Commission, Duty to Accommodate, http://www.ohrc.on.ca/en/policy-preventing-discrimination-based-mental-health-disabilities-and-addictions/13-duty-accommodate

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