An Employer's Duty to Accommodate
Sometimes people need to be treated differently in order to be fair to them. As an employer or service provider, you have an obligation to eliminate negative treatment of individuals, based on prohibited grounds of discrimination.
This is called your duty to accommodate and it is your obligation to accommodate a person when their needs are based on the grounds in the Canadian Human Rights Act. This may require that alternative arrangements be made to ensure full participation of a person.
Organizations should build accommodation into the way they do business as much as possible. You should have policies in place to make your environment accessible, in order to prevent barriers from occurring, rather than removing them retroactively.
The duty to accommodate has limits. Sometimes accommodation is not possible because it would cause an organization undue hardship.
An employer or service provider can claim undue hardship when adjustments to a policy, practice, by-law or building would cost too much, or create risks to health or safety. There is no precise legal definition of undue hardship, each situation should be assessed individually. To prove undue hardship, you will have to provide evidence as to the nature and extent of the hardship.
Improving Your Workplace
As an employer, one of your many responsibilities is to create and maintain a safe and healthy workplace. It is in your interest to create a work environment that attracts good employees and makes them want to stay.
- Encourage leadership commitment
Having your leaders publicly commit to human rights is a good place to start. If you are the leader of your organization, your first step should be to appoint a human rights officer or assign a human rights portfolio to one of your employees. This way you are leading by example, while at the same time empowering your employees to be their own human rights leaders.
- Review your organization’s operations from a human rights perspective
Take a look at your current policies, practices and office by-laws. Do they consider people’s various needs? Have they been developed with consideration for the grounds of discrimination under the Canadian Human Rights Act? Assign someone to review your operations. Keep records of your efforts to improve your policies and practices.
- Provide human rights training
Make human rights training available for your leadership, managers and employees. Making everyone aware of their rights, their responsibilities and the potential human rights implications of your organization’s policies, practices, and by-laws can prevent discrimination.