July 13th, 2017

In this advanced session, a panel of experts will address the nature and scope of the duty to accommodate under human rights legislation in relation to four complex areas: stress, obesity, allergies and religious practices. Questions to be addressed include:

  • Stress: Is stress a recognized mental health disability giving rise to the duty to accommodate in law? What is the scope of an employer’s duty to accommodate when an employee claims that ordinary stress inherent in a job aggravates another recognized disability? If an employee is disabled from performing certain job duties because of personal (non-work-related) stress, what is the scope of the employer’s duty to accommodate? What alterations to job duties should an employer or union consider in order to accommodate an employee with a disability related to stress? Must an employer alter performance standards or productivity targets? Must an employer transfer an employee to another position where the source of the employee’s unhealthy stress or anxiety is conflict with a supervisor or co-worker? What if the source of stress or anxiety is the employee’s job duties? What obligation does an employee have to participate in the accommodation process?
  • Obesity: Is obesity a disability under human rights law? What kinds of accommodative measures might an employer need to implement to accommodate an employee who is obese? When will the costs associated with these measures amount to undue hardship? In what circumstances will the quality of not being obese be considered to be a bona fide occupational requirement of a particular job?
  • Allergies and chemical sensitivities: What steps might an employer be required to take to accommodate a worker suffering from allergies or chemical sensitivities? For example, how should an employer accommodate an employee’s sensitivity to perfume or cosmetics? What type of medical information about the employee’s condition is an employer entitled to receive for the purposes of crafting appropriate accommodative measures?
  • Religious practices: Do employers have an obligation to provide employees with paid leave for the observance of religious holidays? Does a worker who practises a minority or “non-mainstream” religion have the same entitlement to religious accommodation? Does the employee have a duty to explain the significance of religious events to the employer in order to receive accommodation? Can an employer that serves a particular religious community employ only or give preference to individuals who subscribe to the same religious beliefs? When will adherence to specific religious tenets be regarded as a bona fide requirement for employment?