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How far does the duty to accommodate go? (fact sheet)

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Business inconvenience, resentment or hostility from other co-workers, the operation of collective agreements and customer "preferences" cannot be considered in the accommodation process. When a person with a disability needs supports in order to work, use a service or access housing, the employer, service provider or landlord has a duty to provide these supports.

There are limits to this duty, and these limits are called undue hardship. Only three factors can be considered:

  • Cost,
  • Outside sources of funding, and
  • Health and safety

Costs: A cost is "undue" if it is so high that it affects the survival of the organization or business, or changes its essential nature. Such costs must be quantifiable and can include costs such as capital and operating costs and the cost of re-structuring. Human rights law recognizes that different businesses have different financial circumstances. What may be an "undue cost" for a small business, may not be undue for a larger one. If the accommodation requires the business to fundamentally change what the business does, that may also be "undue".

Outside Sources of Funding: Accommodation funds (often available in the public sector), as well as government grants or loans, can offset some costs, and should be considered in assessing undue hardship. If the cost of an accommodation is too large to carry out all at once, it may be possible to phase it in over time, or to create a reserve fund.

Health and Safety: Factors may limit the accommodation that is possible. However, it must first be decided whether any applicable health and safety requirements can be waived or modified, or if alternatives can be found to protect health and safety. If Ontario health and safety laws do not allow a health and safety requirement to be waived, equivalent safety measures can still be used. If the person with a disability wants to take on some degree of risk, this may be acceptable provided he or she is fully informed of the risk and there is no risk to anyone else. No one is entitled to assume a real and serious risk if there is a demonstrable probability of substantial harm to anyone.