The duty to accommodate is an important consideration for all organizations when it comes to supporting employees with disabilities. To fill in any gaps around this topic, here are some frequently asked questions and answers.
What is ‘duty to accommodate’?
The duty to accommodate requires employers to support any employees who require modifications to their job because of protected grounds under the human rights code (e.g. disability, race, gender, family status, etc.) up to the point of undue hardship.
Accommodation is a fundamental and integral part of the right to equal treatment. It’s about removing barriers for employees so they can perform their duties and fully contribute to the workplace.
What is undue hardship?
Employers are required to grant necessary accommodations unless they can prove that doing so would result in undue hardship for the organization. This may be related to financial cost, health and safety, operational requirements, or impact on other employees.
How do I prove undue hardship?
Claiming that costs are excessive or there is unreasonable risk to health and safety does not automatically equal undue hardship. To claim undue hardship, you must provide substantial evidence and documentation.
Is the duty to accommodate only for employee who have permanent disabilities?
The duty to accommodate applies to both temporary and permanent disabilities. As an employer you have an obligation to attempt to accommodate any employee experiencing a disability that impacts their ability to perform their job duties.
Do I have to grant an employee the exact accommodation they request?
Not necessarily. Your obligation is to accommodate the employee’s specific limitation(s) or restriction(s). It’s also acceptable if you can offer an alternative that still addresses the limitation but works better for your business.
For example, an employee requests a particular workstation to accommodate their needs, but it is being used by another employee. It is an appropriate accommodation to offer them a similar workstation available elsewhere that meets all the same requirements.
If I agree to an accommodation, does it mean I have to continue offering it to the employee forever?
Not necessarily. Accommodations should be reviewed on a regular basis, to determine whether they continue to be medically required and that they are still operationally feasible. As a rule, long-term accommodations should be reviewed at least annually, and shorter-term accommodations can be reviewed at a frequency that makes sense given the nature of the limitations and expected recovery timeframe.
Should accommodations be the same for everyone?
Accommodation will be different for each person. The nature of the accommodation both requested and required will vary according to the person’s unique needs. Each employee’s needs must be assessed according to their specific situation. As the employer, you cannot conclude that what worked for one employee would work for another without properly assessing the needs.
What is DMI’s role in the duty to accommodate?
As your third-party service provider, DMI is always ready to help your employees remain or return-to-work and will collaborate with you to explore accommodation options. It’s important to note that the final decision about whether you can support a particular accommodation falls with your organization, not DMI.
If still have questions about duty to accommodate, email email@example.com and a DMI expert will help you.