What should I do if my employee requests changes to their job duties because of a medical issue?

The Ontario Human Rights Code (the “Code”) protects employees from discrimination on the grounds of disability.  Employers have a duty to accommodate employees with disabilities when they are adversely affected by rules, policies, practices, etc.  Required accommodations can vary greatly between employees and even if multiple employees have the same disability, the accommodation(s) each employee requires may be different based upon individual needs. 

When assessing an employee’s situation and request for accommodation, the employer should be cautious of asking the employee to provide extensive medical documentation that goes beyond what is necessary to assess the accommodation request – overly broad documentation requirements may be viewed as the employer creating a barrier to accessing accommodation and discriminating on the basis of disability.

While employers have a duty to accommodate, it is only to a certain extent.  An employee is not entitled to a “perfect” or “preferred” accommodation, they are entitled to a reasonable accommodation that meets their needs.  Further, an employer only has to accommodate to the point of undue hardship (e.g., the accommodation would be contrary to health and safety requirements).

Employee accommodation can be a minefield for employers. It is strongly recommended that employers consult with an experienced employment lawyer when responding to accommodation requests.