What is the Duty to Accommodate?

Man with infantile cerebral palsy using a computer

The duty to accommodate requires employers to make every reasonable effort, short of undue hardship, to accommodate workers who fall under a ground of discrimination within human rights legislation.

An important Supreme Court decision (“Meiorin”) defined what the duty to accommodate means. This is what the court said:

  • Employers designing workplace standards have to be aware of differences between people
  • Employers must incorporate the concept of equality into workplace standards.
  • Workplace standards should be designed to reflect all members of society,

Standards must provide for individual accommodation

The employer must take all steps short of undue hardship to eliminate discrimination related to human rights grounds. For example, policies, procedures, requirements, standards and practices must be designed to ensure that those who have a lower level of visual acuity, or those who require a private area in which to conduct prayers, or those who require modified work hours for family care responsibilities, do not encounter barriers in the first place. If a policy, procedure, requirement, standard or practice is already in place then these must be revoked or replaced by one that is not discriminatory, unless it is found to be a Bona fide Occupational Requirement (BFOR) . (Note that this does not apply to discrimination arising from special programs designed to redress historical inequality such as employment equity.)

September 18, 2013