Disability in the Workplace 

One key aspect of contemporary disability rights and protection laws is the recognition that individuals with disabilities possess inherent rights, necessitating the legal system to acknowledge and cater to their unique needs and circumstances. Ontario, as a province, has taken significant steps in this regard by implementing comprehensive standards. These standards encompass various provisions, notably granting accessibility rights to people with disabilities. The overarching goal is to guarantee that they have access to appropriate workplaces and are treated equitably and impartially by both employers and colleagues. 

This article analyzes how disability in the workplace is understood in Ontario and explores the details of disability accommodations, discrimination claims, how to address harassment, and seeking legal counsel for disability-related employment matters in Ontario. Our law firm stands ready to navigate these complexities and offers expert guidance tailored to the unique needs of each client we serve in Ontario. 

Understanding Disability in the Workplace 

The Ontario Human Rights Code, R.S.O. 1990 defines disability broadly, to mean any of the following:  

  1. A physical disability, infirmity, malformation, or disfigurement that is caused by bodily injury, birth defect or illness; 
  1. A condition of mental impairment or a developmental disability; 
  1. A learning disability or a dysfunction in one or more of the processes involved in understanding or using symbols or spoken language; 
  1. A mental disorder; or 
  1. An injury or disability for which benefits were claimed or received under the insurance plan established under the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act, 1997

Ontario’s Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005, S.O. 2005, c. 11 (AODA),  defines “barriers” to accessibility for persons with disabilities as: 

“[A]nything that prevents a person with a disability from fully participating in all aspects of society because of his or her disability, including a physical barrier, an architectural barrier, an information or communications barrier, an attitudinal barrier, a technological barrier, or a policy or a practice”. 

How is Disability in the Workplace Regulated in Ontario? 

There are several Ontario laws and regulations pertaining to disability in the workplace, including:

  • Ontario Human Rights Code, 1990.  
  • Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005 (AODA).  
  • Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2001 (ODA). 
  • Building Code Act, 1992  (BCA). 
  • Blind Persons’ Rights Act, 1990. 
  • Services and Supports to Promote the Social Inclusion of Persons with Developmental Disabilities Act, 2008. 

The Ontario Human Rights Code and the AODA are the most recent standards. The former is key in the regulation of disability accommodation and non-discrimination in the workplace. It mandates employers to provide reasonable accommodations to employees with disabilities unless doing so would result in undue hardship. The second, AODA, is intended to make Ontario accessible for persons with disabilities by setting standards in various areas, including employment standards.  If there’s a conflict between a rule in AODA and a rule in another law or regulation such as the Code, the rule that provides the highest level of accessibility for people with disabilities will be followed. The Other laws, as set out above, set standards related to the removal of barriers for persons with disabilities.    

Understanding Disability Accommodations in Ontario 

Disability accommodations are adjustments intended to ensure that employees with disabilities can effectively develop their job functions in the workplace. These accommodations can range from physical modifications to changes in work schedules or tasks. Ontario’s Human Rights Code mandates that employers make reasonable accommodations to meet the needs of employees with disabilities, upholding their dignity and promoting equal opportunities. 

Ontario’s AODA includes accessibility standards that help organizations identify and remove barriers to improve accessibility for people with disabilities in aspects such as employment. Employment standards include obligations in the following areas:

  • Recruiting, assessment and hiring process  
  • Workplace policies and supports, including informing all employees of policies in place to support employees with disabilities 
  • Workplace emergency response information 
  • Documented individual accommodation plans 
  • Return to work process 
  • Performance management 
  • Career development and advancement 
  • Redeployment (as an alternative to layoff) 

To get more information on these standards, as well as other AODA requirements, contact an Ontario employment lawyer.   

Disability-Based Harassment in Ontario 

Disability-based harassment is created by unwarranted behavior or comments that create a difficult work environment for individuals with disabilities. The related actions can be verbal, physical, or even written and can originate and perpetuate an offensive atmosphere. Employers can develop actions to prevent and identify this kind of violence against persons with disabilities.  

Disability Discrimination Claims 

Disability discrimination occurs when an employee is treated unfairly because of their disability. Such discrimination generally is related to unequal treatment, denial of opportunities, stigma, or even termination. The Ontario Human Rights Code prohibits such discrimination, emphasizing the principle that everyone should have equal access to employment opportunities. 

It is vital for both employees with disabilities and employers to recognize instances of discrimination. An employer may be denied a job or promotion due to their disability, facing violent treatment, or not receiving the reasonable accommodation established by the local law. Documenting such incidents is crucial in protecting your legal rights.

Disability in The Workplace: How Our Disability Employment Lawyers Can Help 

Employees with disabilities necessarily need to be knowledgeable. Understanding which rights and provisions may help them may contribute to negotiating fair employment deals and ensuring a fair opportunity workplace. 

At Roberts & Obradovic Law, we have an expert team well-versed in Ontario’s disability laws. Our experts competently defend your rights as a person with a disability and negotiate on your behalf. We also routinely advise employers on disability-related issues. Our services include:

  • Understanding employment disability-related regulations, conditions, and procedures; 
  • Addressing potential issues and handling them effectively; 
  • Developing strategies to manage disabilities in the workplace; 
  • Navigating the complexity of disability issues and devising strategic legal solutions 

Our purpose is to ensure fairness and equitability on disability issues, benefiting both employees and employers. 

If you’re uncertain about eligibility, facing challenges with your disability leave request, or simply seeking professional advice, our team is here to help. Reach out to us today at (647) 724-5179 or use our convenient online form to schedule a consultation.  

Experience peace of mind as you increase your knowledge of employment disability-related laws, backed by the expertise of Roberts & Obradovic Employment Lawyers.