Accommodating disabilities tricky

But there’s some good news for employers after a Nova Scotia discrimination complaint was dismissed because employee didn’t supply adequate information
By Stuart Rudner
|Canadian Employment Law Today

The duty to accommodate can be an endless source of frustration for employers. They struggle to find the right balance of accommodation and efficiency, seeking to find appropriate modified duties for an employee without infringing on the employee’s human or privacy rights.

Frequently, the employee doesn’t stay in regular contact or fails to provide more than cursory information regarding their condition. Employers are often left in the unenviable position of having an employee off work without knowing what’s wrong and when they might be able to work again. Requests for further information are either ignored or met with claims of harassment or invasion of privacy. In such situations, efforts to accommodate are simply guesswork.

One of the questions I am frequently asked is how far an organization can go in requesting or demanding information on the medical condition of an employee who is on sick leave or disability. Privacy rights and human rights legislation can create real barriers in this regard. While employers have no legitimate reason to see an employee’s complete medical history, they do need to understand how the employee’s medical condition limits her ability to carry out her duties. Such knowledge is crucial for the employer to meet its obligation to accommodate the individual’s condition.