Workplace Accommodation and Disabilities: A Wake-Up Call for Employers

Workplace Accommodation and Disabilities: A Wake-Up Call for Employers

A recent decision in the matter of an arbitration between The Regional Municipality of Waterloo (Sunnyside Home) and the Ontario Nurses’ Association reinforces the duty of employers to inquire, and consider accommodation solutions, even in cases of misconduct.

In this case, the employee had a substance abuse addiction, and was caught stealing medications, and falsifying medical records to cover up the theft. When the employer became aware of the situation, the employee was suspended pending an investigation. After additional facts came to light during the investigation, the employee was let go. The arbitrator ruled that under The Ontario Human Rights Code, the employer had a duty to accommodate, and since neither consideration was given for an accommodation, nor any inquiry made into the disability, the arbitrator ordered the employer to reinstate the employee and pay her monetary compensation.

Here’s a closer look at the case:

Regional Municipality of Waterloo (Sunnyside Home) v Ontario Nurses’ Association, 2019 CanLII 433 (ON LA), http://canlii.ca/t/hwwj2, retrieved on 2019-06-12

What Employers can do for Due Diligence:

According to a policy from the Ontario Human Rights Commission on preventing discrimination based on mental health, disabilities, and addictions, in order to best prepare for an accommodation, employers should:

  • 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. Sign up for our BOOTCAMP: RTW Facilitation Skills Workshop. We also have webinars on accommodation,  mental healthreturn 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:

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

Regional Municipality of Waterloo (Sunnyside Home) v Ontario Nurses’ Association, 2019 CanLII 433 (ON LA), http://canlii.ca/t/hwwj2, retrieved on 2019-06-12

Gowan Consulting. (2019). Early Intervention and Sustainable Return to Work Planning Retrieved from: https://gowanhealth.com/services/early-intervention-and-sustainable-return-to-work-planning/

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