If you have considered and decided to disclose information about your diagnosis to your employer, there may also be the need to request accommodation in the workplace.
What is Accommodation?
In Ontario, accommodation is directed by the (link) Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC) and (link) Canada Human Rights Act to provide support and services for employees experiencing disability in a manner that is free from discrimination and allows for reasonable accommodation to perform the essential duties of the job.
Accommodation can include changes to your environment, department processes, or equipment to make sure you have equal access to opportunities in the workplace. Individuals require different supports to gain full participation and reduce barriers to employment. As each person and workplace has unique needs, determining accommodations is a collaborative process that is considered, assessed, and accommodated individually.
Why is Accommodation Important?
Accommodations may be necessary to reduce barriers to participation and support productivity, safety, physical and mental well-being.
Barriers to participation in the workplace can include physical, attitudinal and social factors that impact an individual’s ability to do their job or maintain dignity. Removing or reducing these barriers through workplace accommodations and additional support can enable people to find and maintain meaningful employment.
What is Disability?
Describing disability, and the complexities of impact on the workplace environment, can be difficult and evolve over time. Individual impact, along with environmental factors can influence participation in the workplace.
The (link) Ontario Human Rights Commission and the (link) Accessibility for Ontarian’s with Disabilities Act define “disability” as:
- any degree of physical disability, infirmity, malformation or disfigurement that is caused by bodily injury, birth defect or illness and, without limiting the generality of the foregoing, includes diabetes mellitus, epilepsy, a brain injury, any degree of paralysis, amputation, lack of physical co-ordination, blindness or visual impediment, deafness or hearing impediment, muteness or speech impediment, or physical reliance on a guide dog or other animal or on a wheelchair or other remedial appliance or device,
- a condition of mental impairment or a developmental disability,
- a learning disability, or a dysfunction in one or more of the processes involved in understanding or using symbols or spoken language,
- a mental disorder, or
- an injury or disability for which benefits were claimed or received under the insurance plan established under the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act, 1997; (“handicap”).
What is the responsibility of the student/worker?
The accommodation process is a shared role and begins when you initiate the request for accommodation. By law, you do not need to disclose your disability or medical condition unless it will impact your ability to do the job or presents safety concerns to you or your coworkers.
- Tell your employer that you require accommodation due to a disability or ongoing medical condition. You are not required to disclose your diagnosis or specific symptoms, however, there is a responsibility to be forthcoming and share as much information as possible about what you feel you need in the workplace.
- In many organizations, you will be required to provide supporting documentation. This information should come from a healthcare provider who knows you well and can provide information about functional limitations or restrictions that require accommodation.
- Work together with your employer to develop an accommodation plan that is individualized for you. It should identify ways that you can continue to meet the essential job requirements in a manner that considers your functional limitations and dignity.
- Depending on the length of your work term, you and your employer may meet to review accommodations and determine if they are effective. If there has been a significant change in your impact or participation, advise your employer as soon as you are able.
What is the responsibility of the employer?
Once you have notified your employer, they are responsible for engaging in the process and meaningfully considering all accommodations in good faith. When need is determined, the employer has a duty to provide you with reasonable accommodation specific to you and your individual impact to the point of undue hardship. While most accommodations are achieved at a low cost, undue hardship means adjustments would be too expensive for the organization to survive or a health and safety risk to you or the individuals you work with. If you are interested in obtaining more information, the OHRC Policy on ableism and discrimination based on disability further describes (link) undue hardship.
Once accommodated, students and employees are expected to meet bona fide occupational requirements and standards. A bona fide requirement is determined by the employer using the Supreme Court of Canada’s three-step test which determines a requirement:
- was adopted for a purpose or goal that is rationally connected to performing the job,
- was adopted in good faith, in the belief that it is necessary to fulfill a legitimate work-related purpose,
- is reasonably necessary to accomplish the work-related purpose.