What is Undue Hardship and The Duty to Accommodate?

Undue Hardship in the Workplace: What You Need To Know

Accommodations in the workplace are a difficult topic for employers and employees to navigate. What happens when an employee requests an accommodation that an employer cannot reasonably provide? Can an employer rely on undue hardship as a reason to refuse that employee’s accommodation request? 

In this article, we will unravel the intricacies of an accommodation request and what amounts to undue hardship. Further, this article will shed light on the contribution of employers and employees in deciphering and managing this complex and often sensitive area of the employment relationship.

What is Undue Hardship and The Duty to Accommodate?

Employers and organizations have a duty to accommodate employees when legitimate accommodation requests are made.  These requests often pertain to adjustments necessitated by disabilities, religious beliefs, or other protected grounds under Ontario’s Human Rights Code (the “Code”). While employers are legally responsible for facilitating accommodations, it is imperative to recognize that these accommodations must not impose an insurmountable burden on the employer. 

An employer’s duty to accommodate is only up to the point of undue hardship. The Code considers undue hardship as a significant level of difficulty or financial burden employers face while attempting to fulfill an employee’s request for accommodation. As such, employers should consider these factors when assessing if an accommodation would amount to undue hardship: 

  • How much it costs;
  • If there is any outside money available; and/or
  • Health and safety requirements, if any.

It is important to remember that the law does not allow employers to use excuses like “it’s too expensive” or “it’s a hassle” to avoid making accommodations. Employers instead need to think about the bigger picture and consider how to make accommodations work even when it is a bit tough. The goal is to make sure everyone is treated fairly and has a chance to succeed without putting an unreasonable burden on employers. 

Impact on Workplace Dynamics

For employers, the challenge lies in providing accommodations that maintain operational efficiency. Transparency, thorough assessments, and commitment to fair treatment are essential. By communicating openly, exploring solutions, and showcasing a willingness to collaborate, employers can maintain morale and harmony in the workplace.

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Employees also play a role in this balance by transparently communicating their needs and obtaining medical evidence if needed. Engaging in open conversations and considering alternatives demonstrates understanding and builds trust. 

Balancing the needs of one employee against the needs of the organization as a whole can be difficult. Mishandling accommodations and undue hardship can lead to tension, legal conflicts, and a strained atmosphere. The experienced employment and human rights lawyers at Achkar Law can help both employees and employers navigate the sensitive issues of accommodations and undue hardship analysis.

Tips for Employers

Effectively managing undue hardship requires employers find a balance between meeting employees’ needs and safeguarding the organization’s operational efficiency. Here are practical tips for employers to navigate this challenge:

  • Establish well-defined accommodation policies and procedures to guide both employers and employees through the process;
  • Establish a workplace culture that encourages employees to communicate their accommodation needs openly;
  • Approach each accommodation request individually, considering the specific circumstances and potential impact;
  • Engage in a dialogue with employees seeking accommodations, exploring various solutions that meet their needs without causing undue hardship; and/or
  • Seek guidance from employment and labour lawyers to ensure compliance with laws and regulations.

Resolving undue hardship issues requires a balanced approach that considers the perspectives of both employers and employees.  Employers should adopt a proactive approach by understanding their obligations, communicating openly with employees, and exploring creative solutions. Seeking legal advice when necessary ensures compliance while preserving the organization’s overall well-being.

Tips For Employees

For employees, understanding how to navigate undue hardship is key to ensuring their rights are upheld. Here are practical tips for employees seeking accommodations:

  • Provide comprehensive documentation from medical professionals or specialists outlining the requested accommodation’s necessity;
  • Initiate conversations about accommodations as early as possible to allow employers sufficient time to assess and find solutions;
  • Be open to discussing alternative accommodation options if the initial request presents real challenges;
  • Familiarize yourself with the organization’s accommodation process and policies to navigate the process effectively; and/or
  • If challenges arise during the accommodation process, consider seeking legal advice.

Employees should be well-informed about their rights, clearly communicate their accommodation needs, and be open to compromises that align with their requirements and the employer’s capacity. If an employer fails to accommodate you or does not do so sufficiently, you may have a human rights claim or a constructive dismissal claim.  

In Summary

Undue hardship is a reminder that making a fair and balanced workplace is not always easy. Employers need to figure out how to help employees while keeping their business running smoothly. Employees also have a role in sharing their needs and understanding what the company can do. 

As businesses aspire to cultivate inclusive workplaces and employees assert their rights, employment and human rights lawyers emerge as guiding lights. Their expertise navigates the path toward solutions that harmonize legal obligations with practical potential, ensuring undue hardship remains a concept steered with precision, compassion, and justice. With our team of experienced lawyers at Achkar Law, both employers and employees can work together to handle undue hardship in a fair and just way.

Contact Us

If you are an employer or an employee needing assistance, our team of experienced human rights lawyers at Achkar Law can help.

Contact us by phone toll-free at 1 (800) 771-7882 or email us at [email protected], and we will be happy to assist.

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