Employees have the right under the Human Rights Code to be accommodated to the point of undue hardship. However, employees often do not know how to go about asking for that accommodation. If employees do not ask for accommodation, the employer may not know that accommodation is required. Below are some tips to help employees advocate for the accommodations they need at work.

  1. Review your employer’s accommodation policies and procedures, if there are any: Small workplaces may not have a formalized accommodation policy or procedure. However, many workplaces have established policies and procedures that need to be followed. Review them and ensure that you follow them.
  2. If you are unionized, involve your union: Your union is your advocate and has years of institutional knowledge of how best to accommodate in your workplace. Ask your union for help making your accommodation request. 
  3. Document your request in writing: By documenting your accommodation request in writing, you can ensure that your request is clear and can be referred to in the future by your employer. If your employer is not willing to accommodate you, you are also documenting the next steps you have taken, in case you need to take legal action to enforce your rights. 
  4. Clearly identify your accommodation needs: An employee is responsible for asking for the accommodation they need. Clearly indicate to your employer what accommodations are being sought. For example, do you need to adjust your work hours to meet childcare obligations? Do you need to have a standing desk due to back pain? It is up to you to identify what you require. 
  5. Disclose your limitations, not a diagnosis: You have no obligation to inform your employer of a medical diagnosis and your employer is not entitled to ask about one. Instead, indicate to your employer what your health-related limitations or restrictions are.
  6. Provide supporting documentation where appropriate: Accommodation requests should be supported by documentation in many cases. If your accommodation request is due to a medical need, get a letter from your healthcare provider. If your accommodation request is due to a religious request, consider whether you require a letter from your pastor, rabbi, imam or other religious leader. 
  7. Cooperate with your employer: The accommodation process is a two-way street. If your employer asks you questions or requires further information or documentation, help your employer get what they need to accommodate you.

Get legal advice if your employer says no to your request: If your employer refuses your accommodation request, on what legal action is available to you. Employees can file human rights applications with the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario. Unionized employees can also file a grievance through their union. Employees who are not unionized may also be able to file a civil claim if they have another civil claim in addition to the human rights claim. The deadline for filing claims with the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario is one year and for civil claims in court is two years. The deadline for grievances is set out in the collective agreement.


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