My Workplace Accommodation Request Has Been Denied? Now What?!

My Workplace Accommodation Request Has Been Denied? Now What?!

Employees may face situations where they require workplace accommodations due to circumstances like illness, family emergencies, or religious observances. Whether an employee seeks an adjustment in their work environment or needs time off to manage personal matters, there are instances when employers may decline these requests or struggle to find suitable solutions. When an employee’s accommodation request is denied, it can lead to stress and hinder their productivity. It’s important for all employees to be aware that they have options to secure the necessary changes to continue their work.

What Am I Entitled To If My Accommodation Request Is Declined By My Employer?

Under the Ontario Human Rights Code, all provincially regulated employees in Ontario are entitled to accommodations for grounds related to the Human Rights Code, such as race, gender identity, gender expression, disability, age, and family status. If an employee requires a change in their work due to one of these grounds or similar reasons, they have the right to seek accommodation from their employer, provided it doesn’t result in undue hardship.

Most jobs in Ontario fall under provincially regulated industries. However, some employers are subject to federal laws, covered by the Canadian Human Rights Act. These industries include banking, air transportation, Federal Crown Corporations, and interprovincial road and rail transportation. Federally regulated employees enjoy similar protections as those under the Ontario Human Rights Code, but if they need to address human rights issues, they should approach the Canadian Human Rights Commission rather than the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal.

Some employees may also require accommodations due to workplace injuries, as governed by the Ontario Workplace Safety Insurance Act. These employees would have previously applied to the Workplace Safety Insurance Board (WSIB) for compensation or benefits following a workplace injury.

Once these employees recover sufficiently to return to work, they are entitled to accommodations from their employers, provided it doesn’t result in undue hardship. These employees also have the option to address any refusals to accommodate through the WSIB.

How Does Undue Hardship Affect Me?

Both federal and provincial human rights laws acknowledge that employers aren’t obligated to provide accommodations if it would cause undue hardship to the employer. In assessing undue hardship, the courts consider various factors, including cost, safety, the employee’s position, and the impact on the workplace. While accommodations must be feasible, they don’t need to be impossible to meet the threshold of undue hardship for the employer.

What Should I Do When My Accommodation Request Is Denied?

All employees have a role in the accommodation process, which involves providing sufficient information to enable employers to evaluate possible accommodations. When an employer rejects a reasonable accommodation request, it can be beneficial to submit additional documents from impartial third parties to support your accommodation needs. Examples of such documents include:

  • Medical notes from your physician.
  • Functional abilities forms with input from your physician.
  • Letters from your religious officials regarding any religious observance.
  • Written evidence from third parties regarding family status or childcare needs.

In general, the accommodation process entails a constructive exchange between the employer and employee. Both parties should offer reasonable suggestions regarding what can and cannot be done to ensure the employee’s human rights are upheld without fundamentally disrupting the workplace. Employees should maintain copies of the documents they provide to their employer and document the employer’s response to legitimate requests.

If providing supporting documents still doesn’t lead to the necessary accommodations, it’s often advisable to seek competent legal counsel to advocate on your behalf. Possible resolutions may include applying to the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal or Canadian Human Rights Commission for damages or an appropriate accommodation. Employees should be ready to provide the supporting documents to their legal representative to build the strongest possible case. In many cases, employers are willing to reach a practical resolution rather than proceeding with tribunal litigation.

Contact Achkar Law

If you are an employee experiencing discrimination in your workplace or an accommodation request is denied by you employer, or an employer who is facing a human rights claim, our team of experienced employment 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 would be happy to assist.

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