Duty to Accommodate - Frequently Asked Questions
Question: What is the duty to accommodate?
Answer: Based on the Ontario Human Rights Code, employers, service providers and unions have an obligation to take steps to eliminate disadvantage, resulting from a rule, practice or physical barrier, to employees, prospective employees or clients protected under the Code. At the base of this obligation is the recognition that ‘true equality means respect for people’s different needs’. Generally speaking, the term accommodation means changing the rule or practice to incorporate alternative arrangements that eliminate discriminatory barriers.
Question: What is my role in accommodation?
Answer: The process of accommodation requires that the individual making the request and the employer or service provider work together, in good faith efforts, to find appropriate accommodation options. The roles of both parties are outlined below:
Role of Employee, Applicant or Client The individual is responsible for making their accommodation needs known by requesting an accommodation and ideally suggesting the most appropriate type of accommodation. They should also provide sufficient information to the employer or service provider to help determine appropriate accommodation options.
Employers and Service Providers When approached by an individual requesting an accommodation, an employer or service provider is expected to determine what barrier(s) might affect the person requesting the accommodation and explore the options for removing that barrier. Ultimately, the employer or service provider is expected to accommodate to the point of undue hardship.
Question: What is ‘undue hardship’?
Answer: The standard for all accommodation requests is undue hardship, which places a specific burden on the employer or service provider to produce evidence of the undue hardship and its effect. The only factors to be considered, however, are cost, outside sources of funding (if any) and health and safety concerns. This is a very high standard, and one which will not often be met.
Question: Does the duty to accommodate apply to all grounds of discrimination?
Answer: Yes, the duty to accommodate applies to all grounds under the Ontario Human Rights Code.
Question: How does the duty to accommodate apply to religion?
Answer: The Ontario Human Rights Code provides the right to equal treatment with respect to employment and service provision without discrimination because of creed. Creed is subjectively defined as a professed system and confession of faith, including both beliefs and observances or worship. It includes, for example, non-deistic bodies of faith, such as the spiritual faiths/practices of Aboriginal cultures, as well as bona fide newer religions. The law requires measures to facilitate the practice of religious observances based on the principle of freedom of religion.
Question: What are some examples of accommodations for persons with disabilities?
Answer: Some examples of accommodation that may be available to persons with disabilities include:
- Modified physical and ergonomic conditions
- Leaves of absence
- Changes in job duties
Question: Where can I breastfeed on campus?
Answer: Under the Ontario Human Rights Code, as an employer and service provider, Western is responsible for accommodating the special needs of pregnant and breastfeeding women. This includes accommodating employees and students who want to breastfeed or extract milk.
For those who want a private space to nurse a child or extract milk, there are spaces available on campus:
- Health Services - University Community Centre, lower level, Room 11
- Women’s Issues Network - University Community Centre, second floor,
- The Faculty of Law - The Josephine Spencer Niblett Building, Room 52
- Equity and Human Rights Services - Health Sciences Building, third floor,