The requirements of a workplace can affect different workers differently. When a protected personal characteristic is involved (such as age or religion or disability), employers must do what they can to accommodate these differences. This is called the duty to accommodate.
The requirements of a workplace might pose more problems for some workers than others. For example, the requirement to work a regular work week severely inconveniences a worker whose religion has holy days that fall on a weekday.
When a protected personal characteristic is involved (such as religion), employers must do what they can to adjust. This duty to accommodate helps ensure everyone is treated equally.
What accommodation looks like varies, depending on the circumstances. These include your specific needs, medical evidence, and cost of the accommodation. Your employer might have to:
modify your work area because you have a disability
let you take a leave of absence to get treatment for an addiction
change your job duties to ones you are able to perform
Accommodation is a two-way street. If you ask your employer to accommodate you, you have a duty to cooperate with them.
Your employer may need some information from you to understand your needs. For example, they may need to know more about your health or your religious practices. The more reliable information you can give, the more effective your accommodation will be.
At the same time, you only need to respond to reasonable requests for information. Your employer doesn’t need to know (for example) your specific diagnosis or disability. They need enough information to know how it affects your ability to do the essential tasks of your job, and what modifications you require.
Your employer’s duty to accommodate you isn’t limitless. It extends only to the point where the accommodation starts causing them undue hardship. The perfect solution isn’t required. In considering what is undue hardship, factors include:
the financial cost to your employer
health and safety risks
the size and flexibility of the workplace
the impact on the rights and interests of other workers
The standard for undue hardship is high. Mere inconvenience or disruption isn’t enough for an employer to skirt the accommodation rules. The employer must show that they would suffer serious consequences if they accommodated you any further.
If requirements of your workplace have a negative effect on any protected personal characteristic, speak up. Suggest accommodations that could make things better for you. Put your request in writing.
Step 2. Gather information for your employer
Your employer may ask you for information to help them accommodate you. Do your best to respond to a reasonable request from your employer. Otherwise, you may not get the accommodation that's best for your needs.
Keep in mind that you’re not entitled to the specific accommodation you want. Your employer only needs to provide you with a reasonable accommodation.
Step 3. Consider making a human rights claim
If your employer refuses to accommodate you, or fails to provide you with a reasonable accommodation, you may have a claim against them for discrimination. In BC, discrimination claims are heard by the BC Human Rights Tribunal.