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The Duty to Accommodate and You

What is the Duty to Accommodate?

If you have a medical condition that restricts your ability to perform your usual job duties, you have the right to seek a workplace accommodation. The “duty to accommodate” means that employers must look for ways to modify tasks or jobs to ensure that you can continue to work, and enjoy your rights and benefits under the collective agreement.

Fair access to employment is a fundamental legal right. Federal and provincial human rights laws prohibit workplace discrimination for reasons of physical or mental disability, gender, family status, or religious belief. The Supreme Court of Canada has ruled that all employers must accommodate injured or disabled workers by ensuring that work and the workplace are designed and modified to ensure equal access to all workers.

What are my Employer’s Responsibilities?

Employers have a duty to accommodate to the point of undue hardship. “Undue hardship” is a strict legal test. An employer must demonstrate significant disruption, to the point of endangering the viability of their business, to refuse to accommodate a worker.

Arbitration awards and court decisions have defined the responsibilities of employers in looking for suitable accommodations. These include:

  • Designing workplaces, procedures, and work rules to ensure that persons with medical restrictions or limitations can access work.
  • Modifying existing jobs to enable workers to return to work.
  • Looking for alternative jobs or combining tasks, if required to accommodate.

Employers are not required to create jobs or work tasks that do not currently exist. They are not required to accommodate workers if to do so would create significant hardships on their ability to run the enterprise, or significantly impact the rest of the workforce. The accommodation should minimize the impact on both you and your co-workers.

If at all possible, you should be accommodated in your pre-injury job. If this is not possible, the job should be modified, or different tasks assigned.

Employers must obtain only the medical information that is needed to accommodate the worker, and they must keep that information confidential.

What are the worker’s responsibilities?

Workers must participate in the accommodation process. They must supply a clear description of any limited capabilities they have that may affect their ability to perform a job or job task. Medical verification of any restrictions or limitations will be required.

The Role of Your Union

UFCW 1518 is committed to ensuring that your rights to a fair accommodation and all members’ rights under the collective agreement are respected.

 

While the employer is responsible for ensuring that a worker is accommodated, UFCW 1518 must also be involved to ensure that the best arrangements are made. The union’s objective is to return all workers who have restricted capacities to their jobs and to ensure equal and fair access to all. We work to ensure that employers respect the rights of injured workers and that they minimize the impact of accommodations on their co-workers.

 

All union members have a part to play in supporting our members with accommodations and ensuring that employers respect collective agreement rights.

 

Provincial Accommodation Committees

UFCW 1518 has established a Joint Accommodation Committee that meets regularly with Sobeys and the Overwaitea Food Group. Your union representatives on this committee review all of the information required in confidence and work with the employer to ensure that the best accommodations are implemented. The Joint Accommodation Committee has developed specific procedures and information forms that are used in the accommodation process.

The union ensures that the rights of all our members are respected, and coordinates the involvement of the member, co-workers, and your Union Representative. If an agreement or an accommodation cannot be reached to the satisfaction of the worker, the employer, or the union, the issue will be heard before an accommodation arbitrator, who will make a decision based on current law.

If you are seeking an accommodation, or need more information, please contact your Union Representative for assistance, guidance, and support. If you don’t know who your Union Representative is, please contact the main desk at [email protected] or phone 1.800.661.3708.

 

The Duty to Accommodate: Some Frequently Asked Questions