Workplace Accommodation and Family Status

Workplace Accommodation and Family Status

Human rights law plays an increasingly important role in the Canadian workplace, and the scope of the duty of employers to accommodate their employees is not always easy to define. A recent decision by the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario in Linklater v. Essar Steel Algoma Inc. reinforces the fact that there are important obligations that also pertain to the employee. This includes disclosures relating to the accommodation. In this case, the employee neither disclosed his child custody arrangement, nor the fact that it was specifically structured around his prior work schedule. When an accommodation was made by the employer, it left the employee in an impossible situation. Here’s a closer look at the case:

Linklater v. Essar Steel Algoma Inc., 2019 HRTO 273 (CanLII), http://canlii.ca/t/hxm1c, retrieved on 2019-06-11

What Employers can do for Due Diligence:

Employers can only accommodate the needs of employees that are known, but this decision by the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario reinforces the position that employers do have a duty to inquire. According to a policy from the Ontario Human Rights Commission on preventing discrimination based on mental health, disabilities, and addictions, which is also highly applicable here, in order to best prepare for an accommodation, employers can do the following:

  • Understand that the accommodation process is a shared responsibility, and everyone involved needs to cooperate.
  • Get educated about the various facets of accommodation, and be prepared to support the employee, even when they are not aware of the need for an accommodation.
  • Take part in an open discussion about possible accommodation solutions, and take notes.
  • Co-operate with an expert such as an Occupational Therapist, whose assistance might be required to enable, coach, and manage the accommodation, especially in cases where the employee has needs beyond the employers’ scope.
  • Outline specific performance standards and metrics so that all parties have something to refer to when assessing the success of the accommodation.
  • 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 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:

Ontario Human Rights Commission, Policy and Guidelines on discrimination because of family status, http://www.ohrc.on.ca/en/policy-and-guidelines-discrimination-because-family-status

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

Linklater v. Essar Steel Algoma Inc., 2019 HRTO 273 (CanLII), http://canlii.ca/t/hxm1c, retrieved on 2019-06-11

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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