Accommodating workplace injuries

Consistent with the Supreme Court of Canada's direction in O'Malley, Central Alberta Dairy Pool, and Renaud, the initial burden is upon the employer to reasonably accommodate the employee's mental or physical disability.

To prove that its accommodation efforts were serious and conscientious, an employer by law is required to engage in a three step process: First, determine if the employee can perform his or her existing job as it is.

But this much is clear to date: The duty requires more from the employer than simply investigating whether any existing job might be suitable for a disabled employee.

Rather, the employer is expected to determine whether other positions in the workplace are suitable for the employee or if existing positions can be adjusted, adapted or modified for the employee.

This is what the court said: Standards must provide for individual accommodation The employer must take all steps short of undue hardship to eliminate discrimination related to human rights grounds.

For example, policies, procedures, requirements, standards and practices must be designed to ensure that those who have a lower level of visual acuity, or those who require a private area in which to conduct prayers, or those who require modified work hours for family care responsibilities, do not encounter barriers in the first place.

Editor's Note: Editor's Note: Michael Lynk is a professor of law at the University of Western Ontario.

(Note that this does not apply to discrimination arising from special programs designed to redress historical inequality such as employment equity.) The duty to accommodate is usually thought of in terms of disability, but it relates to a broad range of individual differences among workers.The discipline encompasses a body of knowledge about physical abilities and limitations as well as other human characteristics that are relevant to job design.Essentially, ergonomics is the relationship between the worker and the job and focuses on the design of work areas to enhance job performance.For information on assistive technology and other accommodation ideas, visit JAN's Searchable Online Accommodation Resource (SOAR) at Ergonomics is the science of fitting jobs to people.