Employer’s Duty to Accommodate
While it may not be explicitly stated in the Faculty Handbook or the Sessional Lecturers Handbook, federal and provincial legislation dictates an employer’s duty to accommodate the needs of its employees. The duty to accommodate is a legal principle that requires an employer to provide an environment that is barrier free and one in which all people have equal access to opportunity, to the point of undue hardship.
All workplaces have general rules or practices that apply to everyone (such as the prohibition of alcohol consumption or a certain dress code); however, in some instances, certain rules or policies can create barriers for some individuals. Remember, equal does not necessarily mean fair (see Figure 1).
Accommodation in employment most often involves the protected grounds of physical or mental disability (short-term or chronic), and it may also involve the other protected grounds in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, such as gender (including pregnancy), family status, marital status, and religious beliefs.
Some things an employer must consider when accommodating employees include, but are not limited to the following:
- Purchasing or modifying tools, equipment or aids, as necessary;
- Altering the premises to make them accessible;
- Altering aspects of the job, such as job duties;
- Offering flexible work schedules
- Allowing time off for recuperation
- Hiring an assistant.
A recent UofL example of accommodation is the change to some of the bathrooms on campus. The single-occupant bathrooms used to indicate a female or male symbol but, thanks to ULFA’s Gender, Equity and Diversity Caucus, it was recognized that there are individuals on campus who self-identify as a sex and/or gender that is other than male or female or a combination of both. The UofL responded by creating gender-neutral bathroom signs on the single-occupant bathrooms. Kudos to our institution for taking steps in the right direction. Other situations for accommodation may not be as simple. Within the course of your career, you may experience a need for accommodation. If that time ever comes, know that the Faculty Association is able to help or get you the information you need to make a fully informed decision.
Canadian Charter of Rights & Freedoms,
Section 15 Canadian Human Rights Act,
Section 2 Employment Equity Act Alberta Human Rights Act (http://www.albertahumanrights.ab.ca/publications/bulletins_sheets_booklets/bulletins/duty_to_accommodate.asp)
Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat website: http://www.tbs-sct.gc.ca/ee/dorf-eng.asp
The Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada pocket guide: https://www.pipsc.ca/portal/page/portal/website/stewards/pdfs/dutyaccomodate.en.pdf