Canada Employment and Immigration Union -

Duty to Accommodate

The duty to accommodate had typically been seen to refer to members with disabilities who required adjustments in the workplace in order to function as fully as possible. For example, a member returning to work after a disabling car accident was to be accommodated through such measures as workstation modification.

However, the duty to accommodate applies to other prohibited grounds of discrimination such as religion and family status, and the responsibilities of employers have expanded beyond that of simple adjustments in the workplace.

The more comprehensive nature of the duty accommodate flows from a landmark decision by the Supreme Court of Canada. In Meiorin, the court determined that employers were responsible to design the workplace, and the standards workers were required to meet, in a non-discriminatory way. In other words, equality had to be built-in to the entire workplace and not simply added on through piecemeal measures.

For members and union representatives, this expanded concept of accommodation has many implications. Overall, it means a deepening of the equality that should be found in the workplace. More specifically, it means that new approaches are required and new tests must be met. An excellent publication by the PSAC explores the nature and implications of the duty to accommodate and should be seen as required reading for all interested members, stewards and local officers.

The Treasury Board has published a policy with a narrower focus on the duty to accommodate, Policy on the Duty to Accommodate Persons with Disabilities in the Federal Public Service, which should be reviewed by members and representatives involved with accommodation cases related to disability.

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