A Guide to Providing and Receiving Reasonable Employment Accommodation

Employment accommodation is adaptations or adjustments that help people with disabilities compete for jobs and perform all employment activities. These adaptations should include and integrate people with disabilities into the workforce in ways that respect their dignity and worth.

Why is it Important?

People with disabilities are often overlooked when the time comes to recruit, hire and promote. To hire the most qualified people, employers need to draw from the largest possible pool of candidates. This pool definitely includes people with epilepsy.

People with epilepsy comprise a productive sector of the workforce today, even though some need accommodation on the job. Employers should be concerned about providing an accessible, safe and healthy working environment for everyone in your workplace. This accommodation often requires little or no cost.

Who’s Responsibility is Accommodation?

According to the Ontario Human Rights Code, the law requires employers to provide reasonable accommodation for employees with disabilities. The only exception is if an employer can prove that accommodation will cause the organization “undue hardship.”

The Code prescribes the following three factors for employers to consider in assessing whether a requested accommodation would cause undue hardship:

  1. Cost
  2. Outside sources of funding
  3. Health and safety requirements

The person responsible for accommodation must provide facts, figures, and scientific data or opinion. The OHRC will expect more than a statement that the cost or risk posed by an accommodation is too high. Objective evidence is required to support the claim that accommodation would cause undue hardship.

An employer is responsible for making accommodations in a way that respects the dignity and worth of the person with a disability. However, it is the employee’s responsibility to bring their needs to the attention of the employer. After all, the employer cannot provide accommodation when they are unaware that it is necessary.

An employee who has been denied accommodation can file a complaint under the Code. Failure to provide accommodation to an employee with epilepsy short of undue hardship may be found to be discrimination on the basis of disability.

If you are not being offered reasonable accommodation, please contact the Ontario Human Rights Commission (see below) to help you determine if your rights are being infringed.

If denying accommodation, the employer – not the person with the disability – must prove the accommodation causes undue hardship within the standards set out in the associated sections of the Code.

The person with a disability is obliged to answer questions within his/her knowledge and ability. S/he must answer with regard to the particular circumstances or equipment the specific situation requires. The person in need of accommodation is not required to disclose any private information.

Making decisions regarding accommodation often requires special expertise or special knowledge. Individuals with disabilities and persons responsible for accommodation are encouraged to seek assistance when assessing the type of accommodation required and the costs and risks of such accommodation. This is especially true if the person with a disability does not have the technical expertise to determine what accommodation is necessary to meet his/her needs.

Tips for Employers

An employer is not only responsible for accommodation on the job, but also for everything from job advertising to exit interviews. If you’re an employer, you are in a prime position to take action against discrimination. Follow these tips to make your job competitions inclusive and accessible:

  • Job descriptions should be detailed, accurate and up-to-date with differentiated essential and non-essential duties. You may need to redesign the job for employment diversity.
    • Most job descriptions simply require a focus on the expected outcomes of the job, being mindful of the applicant’s needs.
  • During a formal job interview, you must conduct the same interview with someone with a disability as you would someone without an obvious disability.
    • Unless the individual raises it, the job interview is not the appropriate time to discuss a disability. An appropriate time to discuss necessary accommodation is after you have given them a conditional offer of employment.
    • Revise your language. When discussing accommodation with the employee, use language that focuses on the person’s abilities rather than their disability. Ask the same question of all applicants, regardless of whether or not they have a disability.
      • E.g. “Will you need accommodation to do this task?” rather than “Can you do this task?”
  • A person with a disability does not need extra or preferential treatment when starting a new job. There is no need to prepare your staff any differently than you would for the arrival of any other new employee.
  • Although it is an employee’s responsibility to bring the need of accommodation to an employer’s attention, take a proactive approach to accommodation. Let your staff know that you are available at all times to discuss accommodation issues.
  • Remember, there is no simple answer to who needs what accommodation. Determine what accommodation is needed by each person on a case-by-case basis. Meet with your employee and work together to find the best approach to accommodation.
  • There are many organizations with the skills and resources necessary to assist employers/employees with accommodation issues. Please visit our Additional Resources for more information about these organizations.

Job Ads that Make a Difference

For more information, visit the OHRC website.
Ontario Human Rights Commission
800-387-9080 toll free
416-314-4535 TTY