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Fact Sheet – My Rights at Work: Limits to the duty to accommodate in Ontario

Is my employer allowed to say no to my request for accommodation?

What does the law say?

  • Ontario’s Human Rights Code says that employers must provide disability-related accommodations, unless the qualification or standard is a justified job requirement, or if it causes the employer undue hardship.

Justified Job Requirement

  • If your request for accommodation is about a workplace qualification or standard then the employer may be able to justify saying no to your request on the basis that the qualification or standard is essential for the job that they hired you to do.
  • To prove this, the employer must show that the qualification or standard:
    • Is connected to performing the job;
    • Was put in place honestly and in good faith; and
    • Cannot be changed without causing the employer undue hardship.
  • Sometimes, if the qualification or standard is essential for the job, the employer may be obligated to offer you another job that does not have those qualifications or standards.

Example

  • You were hired for the job of a delivery driver.
  • Your disability-related needs prevent you from driving a truck.
  • Being able to operate a delivery truck safely may be a justified job requirement.
  • Your employer may be able to say no to your request, but may have to work with you to find a different job that works for your needs.

Undue Hardship

  • The employer is not required to provide the accommodation if it causes the employer hardship that reaches the point of being “undue.”
  • Undue is a legal term. The law says that only three things can be considered when assessing whether an accommodation would cause undue hardship. Those are:
    • Cost;
    • Outside sources of funding; if any; or
    • Health and safety requirements.
  • No other factors can be considered. For example, inconvenience is not a factor for assessing whether the employer is permitted to say no to your accommodation request.
  • If your employer shows you that your request for accommodation will cause them undue hardship, they are obligated to work with you to find a different accommodation that works for your disability-related needs.

Example

  • You work at a small family-owned flower shop in an old building.
  • You request that they install an elevator for your disability-related needs.
  • Because your employer is a small business, installing an elevator may be so costly that it causes your employer undue hardship.
  • Your employer may be allowed to say no to installing an elevator, but they are required to keep working with you to find another solution.

Note: federally-regulated employment

  • For employers that are federally-regulated (like banks and air transportation companies), the Canadian Human Rights Act (the CHRA) applies. Some of the laws are different for these kinds of employment relationships.

For specific questions about your situation, including what law applies, persons with disabilities who live in Ontario can call ARCH for free, confidential summary legal information and advice. To find out about the kind of legal advice ARCH provides and how to book an appointment, go to: https://archdisabilitylaw.ca/services

Disclaimer: This Factsheet is not intended to be legal advice. Consult a lawyer or legal worker if you need legal advice on a specific matter. This information is current as of March 2020.

© ARCH Disability Law Centre, 2020

Fact Sheet – My Rights at Work: Limits to the duty to accommodate in Ontario



Last Modified: August 12, 2021

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