to address harassment, bullying and discrimination

 with Stephen Hammond


When the Supreme Court of Canada states that an employer must make accommodations towards an employee short of "undue hardship," they want all workplaces to find a way to employ and offer services to people who don't fit the same mould as everyone else. Here are a few more examples from the courts and human rights tribunals where a business was required to find a reasonable accommodation to the point of undue hardship. In many cases undue hardship has been difficult to prove.


Rene Poulin was injured on the job while driving a haul truck for the coal mining company, Quintette Operating Corporation. With a generous program for getting injured employees back into the workforce, Quintette gave Poulin modified work while still issuing his regular pay. After more than a year, during which he and his doctor met with the Workers Compensation Board, Poulin accepted the job of building maintenance worker, which paid about $3 an hour less than his truck driving job. The adjudicator said that Quintette treated Poulin "fairly well" throughout, and "acted reasonably" in many different respects. However, because the firm didn't wait for appropriate jobs to become vacant, they didn't accommodate him to the point of undue hardship.


Katherine Crabtree felt she was discriminated against during an interview for the job of front counter sales person/typesetter at a printing business, Econoprint (Stoney Creek). Once the owner, Stephen Price, asked her about her disability, spinal muscular atrophy, he focused on the difficulty of the job and declined to see her portfolio of work from the college program she was just completing. The Ontario Human Rights adjudicator found that Price was using his own immediate impressions instead of any objective standards to determine if she was capable of doing the job. Price was described as a good employer who had no bias against disabled employees, but he could have accommodated Crabtree with minimal business expense.


Terry Grismer was a mining truck driver from the interior of British Columbia, who after a stroke suffered from homonymous hemianopia (H.H.). H.H. took away Grismer's left-side vision in both eyes, which in turn led the B.C. Motor Vehicles Branch to cancel his driver's license. The average person has a 200 to 220 degree field of vision, and the B.C. Superintendent of Motor Vehicles imposes a standard of a minimum 120 degree field of vision. People with H.H. have less than a 120 degree field of vision, and therefore are prohibited from driving in B.C. There are no exceptions, even though Grismer was able to pass his tests four times over a seven-year period because he devised ways to compensate for his lack of peripheral vision. A unanimous Supreme Court of Canada upheld the right of people with H.H. to ask for a driving assessment and not be dismissed out of hand. (Sadly, Grismer died years before this decision was rendered.)



1) Consider the obstacles of your own thoughts - just like all people, persons with disabilities will use a bit of license in order to put positive spins on their experiences and abilities. But there's no indication persons with disabilities will greatly exaggerate their skills...anymore than any applicant for a job or promotion. It's usually the views of those without the disability who will doubt what someone can do. Don't let that be the greatest obstacle of a person with a disability. Explain what is needed of the job and ask if the person can do it. Just like any new job, use the probationary process to find out.


2) Consider accommodations ahead of time - so it's no surprise when someone asks. Without segregating people, look to jobs that can be easily modified, or shared with others. Then when a candidate needing an accommodation comes forward, it won't seem like a big deal as you're already prepared.


3) Ask persons who need accommodations to propose alternatives - as they may have done the homework in anticipation. Most people seeking accommodations don't throw the problem at their employer. Many give lots of thought to suggestions. Ask people what they have in mind and work from there.


This is TIP #50 of 52 WEEKLY TIPS for managers and supervisors. 
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