What are my Employment Human Rights?
Legislation That Affects Employers and Persons with Learning Disabilities
It is not that individuals in the designated groups* are inherently unable to achieve equality on their own, it is that the obstacles in their way are so formidable and self-perpetuating that they cannot be overcome without intervention. It is both intolerable and insensitive if we simply wait and hope that the barriers will disappear with time. Equality in employment will not happen unless we make it happen.”
Judge Rosalie Silberman Abella
Royal Commission on Equality in Employment, 1985
*designated groups are women, aboriginal peoples, persons with disabilities, members of visible minorities.
What you will learn in this section:
- What are the benefits to employers of following legislated principles?
- What are the costs of not following legislation?
- What is your current knowledge level?
- What general principles underlie relevant human rights legislation?
- What human rights legislation affects employers?
- What employment areas are covered by legislation?
- What are some of the key cases and legal decisions that guide current practice?
- What are the best practices?
- Where can you go for more information?
What are the Benefits to Employers of Following Legislated Principles?
Employers who work towards achieving employment equity for all workers will ultimately reap many positive rewards and benefits. Not only will they gain access to a larger talent pool, but will also access more of the potential of their current workforce. Many persons with learning disabilities (LDs) do not disclose their needs for fear of stigma and discrimination. Employees in optimal work environments do not have these fears and are therefore freer to request and obtain the accommodations they need to maximize their efficiency. This results in higher employee self-esteem, enhanced employee productivity, and greater employer and employee satisfaction.
There is a large and talented pool of workers with LDs. Up to 20% of the population may have LDs. In a recent article in Fortune magazine, Sally Shaywitz, a leading neuroscientist at Yale, co-director of their Centre for Learning and Attention., reported that "Dyslexics are overrepresented in the top ranks of people who are unusually insightful, who bring a new perspective, who think out of the box". Numerous successful workers have recently publicly disclosed their LDs.
Highly successful entrepreneurs, CEO’s, actors, politicians, inventors, and professionals who may have once been told they were stupid have recently come forward to disclose their LDs and to share the secrets of their fame and work success. Employers obviously want to ensure that these talented individuals are part of their workforce and not part of their competition.
Persons with LDs are also key consumers and clients of the services employers provide. Understanding the needs of this population will enable employers to reach a larger consumer base. This ultimately contributes to a higher bottom line.
- Not Having Access to Largest Pool of Qualified Employees
- Less Employer Productivity of Workers with LDs in Current Workforce
- Not Being Able to Reach Full Consumer Group
- Poor Worker Morale
- Increased Stress and Absenteeism of Employees who are Harassed or Stigmatized
- Poor Company Image
- Loss of Federal Government Contacts
- Human Rights Complaints (Human Rights Cases are Publicly Reported)
Employers can be fined if they do not act to end workplace discrimination or harassment. The company’s reputation can also be ruined, so it is very important to ensure all employees are knowledgeable about human rights legislation and that clear policies and procedures are put in place to ensure the legislation is upheld.
What is your current knowledge of the human rights legislation?
Honouring human rights is not a matter of kindness, it is law. To assist those with those with disabilities achieve equity, there have been many different pieces of legislation enacted. Sometimes, this can often leave employers confused as to what their legal rights and responsibilities are.
Ontario employers need to know about employment equity and human rights legislation as it pertains to persons with LDs. Not knowing the relevant laws does not free employers from their legal responsibilities. Unintentional discrimination still counts as discrimination under the law. Ignorance is still punishable under the law.It is important that employers understand their rights and their obligations.
What general principles underlie legislation?
Ontario is committed to Canada’s vision of employment equity. Ontario prides itself on being “one of the best places in the world in which to work, invest, live and raise a family.” The Ontario government is “committed to maximizing the potential of every individual Ontarian” and envisions a province where persons with disabilities experience “the same fullness of opportunity as all Ontarians.” The vision is to remove the barriers to Ontarians with disabilities and to ensure no new barriers are created. Employers are considered to be key partners in achieving the goal of a “fair and inclusive society.”
Some of the general principles of relevant laws include
- Maximizing integration and full participation of persons with disabilities in the workplace
- Respecting the dignity of employees with disabilities
- The right of employees to privacy, confidentiality, comfort, and autonomy
- An employer’s duty to accommodate persons with disabilities to the point of undue hardship
- The need for employers to know the essential duties of the job so that they can fairly evaluate a person’s ability to perform those duties with accommodation
- The need for individualization of employment accommodation
- Removal of individual and systemic barriers to discrimination
- Equal opportunity in all aspects of employment: recruitment, training, retention, promotion, and termination
- LDs are considered a disability in the legislation
- Ignorance of law or lack of knowledge does not free employers of their responsibility.
What Human Rights Legislation Affects Employers?
Employment equity principles are more than part of a Canadian ideal. The above principles are grounded in strong Canadian human rights laws. There are many relevant laws and thus the legislative responsibilities of employers may seem a little confusing. Although some legislation applies only to employers who meet specific conditions (such as employers under federal jurisdiction or employers of a specific employee size), all employers must abide by human rights law. Discrimination against persons with LDs is prohibited in all aspects of employment regardless of jurisdiction. Fines and negative consequences are applied to employers who fail to comply with the legislation.
Human rights legislation exists in every province, territory, and federal level. Jurisdiction is determined according to constitutional division of power. In other words, employers such as banks, national airlines, railways, or the federal government are covered under federal jurisdiction and are thus covered by the Canadian Human Right Act. On the other hand, employers such as school boards, city government, or retail outlets are covered by provincial jurisdiction and would be legislated under the Ontario Human Rights Code. Some Ontario employers must also comply with the Ontarians with Disabilities Act (ODA).
Federally regulated employers also need to be aware of their obligations under the Employment Equity Act. Also, those employers wishing to bid for federal government contracts need to be aware of the regulations under the Federal Contractor’s Program.
Although the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms defines the rights of all Canadian people, these rights cannot be infringed by any government or legislation (including human rights legislation). The Charter can be invoked to challenge the validity of specific human rights legislation. A lawyer needs to be consulted by those who feel their charter rights have been violated.
Are Learning Disabilities Considered a Disability Under the OHRC?
Under the code, disabilities are defined in a number of ways. Although the Code does not list all conditions that may be considered disabilities, employers should know that LDs are specifically mentioned as one type of disability covered under the code.
Interestingly, non-evident disabilities are also covered by the OHRC. This would include a variety of non-visible disabilities as epilepsy, chronic fatigue, and mental illness. LDs are specifically mentioned as one type of non-evident disability that could be encountered. The point is that sometimes a nonevident disability does not become obvious until a specific employment task arises (such as a need for a specific type of written communication by someone with LDs).
Moreover, guidelines on how to interpret the OHRC acknowledge that because non-evident disabilities are not seen, many of them may not be well understood and this can lead to stereotypes, stigma, and prejudice. Not all persons with LDs are aware of their disability. However, even if the employee’s LD is non-evident, the legislation stipulates the employee must be accommodated. This creates a tricky situation for the employer. Therefore, employers should become aware of the signs and symptoms of LDs so as to help employees understand their disabilities and needs. Before terminating an employee, employers should consider the possibility of a disability such as a LD interfering with performance and suggest assessment if LDs are suspected. Failure to do so could constitute discrimination. Policies and practices should be put into place to consider a LD as a possible performance factor before someone is let go from a position or training option. See the section on relevant cases below to understand more about the implications of not taking a LD into consideration.
An employer cannot specifically ask if someone has a disability. However, an employer could suggest to an employee that there are a number of reasons why certain problems may be present and further exploration of learning style might illuminate some answers. Once an employee discloses a disability, or a disability is identified, the OHRC stipulates that employers cannot ask about the details of the disability. However, employers can ask for confirmation of the disability from a qualified practitioner who can confirm diagnosis and an employer can ask for details on specific work accommodations that are needed.
Discrimination can be considered to have taken place even when it occurs against someone who does not have a disability, but is only believed to have had a disability. Therefore, if someone who does not have a disability is not hired for what is perceived to be discrimination based on having been perceived as a person with a disability, this constitutes discrimination. The whole situation can get pretty complicated. The best way for employers to avoid difficulties is to ensure that all employees understand the OHRC and their obligations. Ensure employees know the signs of a LD and accommodation options, so that they are open to exploring solutions. Employers should evaluate their policies and practices to ensure no systemic barriers to persons with LDs are embedded within. All employees need to be aware of their responsibilities under the OHRC because they can be charged.
Particular hot spot areas that employers should analyze are policies and procedures related to test rationale and accommodation, training methods and accommodations, performance review, and termination process. Larger employers should also consider creating a centralized fund for meeting potential accommodation needs of employees. Although most accommodations are free or inexpensive, having a centralized fund available to managers who have employees who need accommodations can minimize a supervisor’s reluctance to implement accommodations that may have a cost attached. Such simple pro-active measures could save employers from costlier and more time consuming human rights fines and procedures.
“Equal Treatment” Does not always mean the “Same Treatment”
The OHRC is based on the principle that every person has a right to equal treatment with respect to employment without discrimination based on disability and other specified grounds. “Equal” means not only mean treating people the same way, but may also mean treating people differently.” For example, providing an audio version of printed material to people with reading disabilities, but not to people without this disability accommodation need may not be “equal treatment” in the most literal sense, but is “equal treatment” under the OHRC because it allows “equal access” to print material to persons with disabilities who otherwise may not have access to the information.
Duty to Accommodate To the Point of Undue Hardship
The duty is on employers to accommodate persons with disabilities “in a manner that most respect the dignity of the person, if to do so does not create undue hardship.” Such accommodation can take many forms for persons with LDs. It may mean modifying the work environment to reduce noise level, providing a key piece of computer software, or job restructuring. This duty to accommodate affects all employers in Ontario. For more details on accommodating workers with LDs, go to the Job Accommodation Network Website.
Only three considerations are considered in determining whether an accommodation would cause undue hardship for an employer. These are cost, whether outside sources of funding can be used to offset cost, and health and safety requirements (if any).
Undue financial hardship has been interpreted to be a very serious level of financial hardship, often akin to bankruptcy, resulting from offering the accommodation. Therefore, since most accommodations for persons with LDs are very inexpensive with many accommodations costing nothing, financial hardship can usually not be claimed as a reason not to accommodate someone with a LD. Employers also need to be aware that the onus of proving that an accommodation will cause undue hardship falls on the employer, not the person with LDs. Objective evidence may need to be provided by the employer to make a claim of undue hardship. Such evidence could include financial statements, budgets, scientific data, or expert opinion. Objective risk assessments may need to be conducted to discuss the seriousness of the risk if the employer is claiming undue hardship due to health and safety risk.
It is important to note that the OHRC takes primacy over other employer rules and collective agreements. Also such factors as business inconvenience, employee morale, or consumer preferences cannot be used as reasons to avoid an employer’s responsible to accommodate.
Respecting Dignity of Person
Accommodating someone in a way that respects their dignity means a variety of different things. First, disclosures should be kept confidential. Only those persons who need to know in order to accommodate the disability needs should be informed. Interpretation of the OHRC suggests that an employer cannot probe for intimate details regarding the disability. The employer can only request that the disability and need for accommodation be confirmed by supporting documentation of someone qualified to diagnose the disability.
If problems with employee morale emerge as a result of negative reactions from co-workers who are either unaware of the reason for the accommodation or perceive the employee with LDs to be obtaining undue benefits, the Ontario Human Rights Commission has stated that the person responsible for providing accommodation must find ways to help foster a positive environment. “It is an affront to an individual’s dignity if issues of morale and misconception stemming from perceived unfairness are not prevented or dealt with.”
For persons with LDs, this can also mean making information about how to get accommodations easy to access. A job applicant with LDs who needs an accommodation would benefit from having information readily available (in different formats) about such things as how to get test accommodations. Frequently, job seekers and current employees want clear information on relevant company policies such as accommodation policies, accessibility funds, and where to go to ask for help. Proactive employers make this information easy for managers, employees, and potential employees to locate.
Not just employees are covered by the OHRC?
The OHRC is a key piece of human rights legislation that affects not only employees, but also contractors, volunteers, and consumers in Ontario.
Who is held responsible for upholding the Code?
Complaints can be filed not only against the employer, but also against contractors, unions, or boards of directors. Therefore, there is a joint duty to ensure the workplace is free from discrimination and harassment.
Vocational associations also have a responsibility to uphold the code. Section 6 of the code guarantees that “every person has a right to equal treatment with respect to membership in any trade union, trade or occupational association or self-governing profession without discrimination because of”…disability.
Does the discrimination have to be deliberate?
Discrimination does not have to be deliberate or malicious to be considered a violation under the OHRC. Moreover, discrimination can be considered to have occurred if it direct or indirect. For example, direct, but perhaps non-deliberate discrimination occurs in a situation when someone makes a joke that scoffs at people with LDs. Even if meant “only as a joke”, such an act, even if intended not to be hurtful, can be deemed to be direct discrimination from the person making the joke. Indirect discrimination can be carried out through another party. For example, a manager is still held accountable under the OHRC even if he or she was only following directions from a third party in the organization. For example, if a manager is told by his boss not to hire anyone who cannot spell and then avoids recruitment as a result of this direct instruction, the manager can be charged with indirect discrimination against persons with LDs affecting spelling skill. Such a practice has an adverse impact on persons with LDs. As in the CHRA, if spelling is a required bone fide job skill, people with LDs who cannot spell are entitled to demonstrate their spelling skills when provided with reasonable accommodations.
Sometimes what seems like neutral rules can be deemed discriminatory.
Therefore, even what might seem like neutral rules and policies on the surface can be deemed discriminatory if they are found to unintentionally cause unequal treatment to a particular group of people protected under the OHRC. When a rule or practice was put in place in good faith, even it seems reasonable and genuine, it can still be deemed to show constructive discrimination if it can be shown to have an unfair differential impact on a particular group. People with disabilities must be able to show that they are capable of performing the essential duties of the job, but they are entitled to reasonable accommodation to show this. Employers must look at the rule, but also whether making an exception to this rule or practice would be too costly or would create a health or safety risk. It is only under these conditions that accommodation does not need to be provided.
Individualize Accommodations and Keep Records
Employees should work with employers to identify reasonable and effective accommodations. When an employer gets an accommodation request, they should document the request and the steps they have gone through to meet the request. Employers also need to remember that accommodation requests are not always one-time-only solutions or generalizable to others in the designated group. As jobs change, so do the accommodation needs. Employers need to recognize that solutions that work one day may no longer be the most effective as the duties and demands of the job change. Accommodations are also very individual. What works for one person with LDs is not necessarily going to be effective with the next persons with LDs that they employ. Everyone’s LD is different, as is the way in which they accommodate. Finding optimal accommodations is in everyone’s best interest because it allows the employee to maximize job performance without creating health or safety risks or undue hardship to the employer.
The bottom line is that providing reasonable accommodation is the law, as well as being good business practice.
What employment areas are covered by legislation?
Legislation such as the OHRC and the CHRA cover all aspects of employment including recruitment, training, apprenticeship terms, transfers, promotions, and dismissals and layoffs. Therefore, employers need to examine a variety of policies and practices.
What are some of the key cases and legal decisions that guide current practice?
Several key court decisions were made by the Supreme Court of Canada that clarify the boundaries of the duty of employers to accommodate the needs of persons with LDs. Three cases of particular interest are the Meiorin case (1999), the Green case (2000) and the Grismer case (1999). Each of these cases are described below. The decisions related to these cases guide current human rights practices.
- Meiorin Decision, The Employers Duty to Accommodate, and Bone Fide Occupational Requirements.
The duty to accommodate, a legal responsibility in the OHRC and the CHA, was affirmed by the Supreme Court of Canada in the Meiorin case. The case clarified that this duty applies not just to the individual with a disability, but also to employer standards themselves. Although this case does not deal with a person with LDs, it nevertheless provides useful information that is generalizable to this group.The Meiorin Case involved a female firefighter in British Columbia who had difficulty passing the fitness standards for forest fire fights set by the B.C. government.. This landmark case affirms employers’ obligation to remove barriers to employment equity from all policies, standards, procedures, rules, and practices at the design stage, not just to deal with barriers to a particular individual.In this case, the female fighter who had done her work satisfactorily was fired because she failed to meet one aerobic standard after four attempts at trying to pass. Along with her union, she filed a grievance citing discrimination because of physiological differences between men and women. The claim was that women tend to have a lower aerobic capacity than men. Importantly, however, with training, most women could not increase their aerobic capacity enough to meet the aerobic standard for the fire fighting position. Moreover, there was no evidence that the specific aerobic capacity standard was necessary for men or women to safely and productively perform the duties of the role of forest firefighter.In this case, it was found Meiorin did suffer from unlawful discrimination and it was ordered that she be restored to her former position and compensated for lost wages and benefits. Of broader importance is the development of a new, unified, three part test that was developed from this case, that came to be known as the Meiorin test.
- Meiorin Test
The characteristics of affected groups must be accommodated right in the standards. Even when the standard itself has been developed to take into account these variables, it must also provide for individual accommodation, whenever reasonably possible. It should be noted that it is illegal to
maintain discriminatory standards, even if individual accommodation is allowed. Employers have an obligation to be aware of differences between individuals and the differences that characterize groups of individuals. Principals of equality must be built right into the workplace standards so that all members of society are reflected in the standardsThe Meiorin test that was developed from this case is what is used to determine if a particular standard can stand.Standards can stay in place if they pass the Meiorin test. Once a complainant is able to establish that a standard is prima facie discriminatory, the onus is on the respondent to prove that the discriminatory standard is a bona fide occupation requirement with reasonable justification. The three parts of the Meiorin Test are as follows:
- the standard must have been adopted for a purpose or goal that is rationally connected to the relevant function or activity
- the standard must have been applied in good faith with the belief that it was essential for the purpose it was created
- the standard must be reasonably necessary to achieve the purpose or goal.
Therefore, employers should explore their rules to determine if they are necessary for employees to perform the bone-fide occupational duties of the job and do not discriminate against a particular group of applicants or employees. Even when a standard is allowed to stay, accommodations policies need to be put in place whenever possible, short of undue hardship. Undue hardship is defined as an impossibility of providing reasonable accommodations without creating serious risks or excessive costs.
Unions share responsibility:
In another case, Central Okanagan School District No. 23 v. Renaud (1992), it was reaffirmed that union share a joint responsibility with the employer to ensure accommodations are granted and both the union and the employer are liable if nothing is done. Unions can be liable if work rules have a discriminatory effect on a particular employee or employee group.
- Meiorin Test
- Green Case (2000)
The Green case involves a person with LDs and is useful to clarify what reasonable accommodation can be expected in hiring, training, and promoting someone with LDs. Nancy Green, a Public Service Commission (PSC) employee, won a job promotion competition. However, to get the position, she needed to pass a test to determine her ability to learn French as a second language. Nancy’s LDs involved auditory dyslexia. This disability made it difficult for her to replicate sounds in sequence, especially without context. Due to her poor performance on the required language ability test, she was denied her training and promotion. The employer determined she would not succeed in the necessary language training on the basis of the test.This action was found discriminatory by the Federal Court. The language ability test was determined to have “adverse, though unintended consequences” for people with auditory dyslexia. The Court ruled that PSC had a duty to provide accommodations in testing and training. Moreover, it was determined that the test did not properly evaluate a person’s ability to compensate for their disability while in training because it didn't adequately explore what compensatory strategies a person with LDs would use in training. The PSC was expected to provide accommodation to the point of undue hardship. Such accommodations as private tutoring after daytime classes, no time limits, use of context in training, and opportunities for the trainee to use compensatory strengths were all considered reasonable. Furthermore, PSC was required to create an alternative test to evaluate the aptitude of persons with LDs to finish language training.The court ordered Nancy Green be admitted to the French training, receive lost salary and pension, and be promoted to management training upon successful completion of language training. PSC had to take steps to ensure the confidentiality of the original negative language assessment.Interestingly, Nancy Green’s language tutors noted that she had “a higher than average capacity to learn French enhanced by the ‘high motivation and hard work.” This demonstrates that employers need to be aware that standardized tests do not always adequately measure the aptitude of persons with disabilities.This case clarifies that employers should ensure that any employment tests they use should properly assess skills being tested and that accommodations for testing be put in place. Similarly, accommodation for training must also be provided.
- Grismer Case
Grismer v. British Columbia (1999) is a case that focuses on valid standards. Grismer, was a truck driver with a visual disability called homonymous hernianopia (H.H.). His driver’s license was cancelled on the ground that his vision did not meet the minimum standard for peripheral vision. Some exceptions to the standard were already permitted in other cases, but not for people with H.H. in British Columbia.The Meiorin case criteria were used to assess whether the standard was discriminatory. Invalid standards are considered discrimination.The key finding was that the Superintendent of Motor Vehicles in B.C. was considered to have committed discrimination by not accommodating Mr. Grismer’s disability. The law states that the characteristics of affected groups must be accommodated within the standard and not merely supplemented by accommodation. The employer, or public agency, must prove the discriminatory standard has bona fide and reasonable justification. The standard must pass all 3 parts of the Meiorin test.Mr. Grismer was able to demonstrate there was prima facie discrimination by showing he was denied a license because of his visual disability. It was found the Superintendent could not prove that the discriminatory standard had bona fide reasonable justification. Although the goal of highway safety was important, legitimate, and rationally connected to issuing of drivers’ licenses and it could be shown that the standard of a minimum field of vision of 120 degrees was adopted in good faith, it was determined that the standard was not reasonably necessary to accomplish the needed safety goal. It was determined that people with less than full peripheral vision could drive safely and Mr. Grismer had been able to compensate for visual disability. It was determined that providing individual driving safety assessments for people with H.H. did not constitute undue hardship. Mr. Grismer was given an opportunity to show, in an individual evaluation, that he could drive without being a safety risk.The Grismer case demonstrates that employers really need to examine the reasons why they have certain standards in place and explore whether they have practices in place that allow for individual assessment of a person’s ability to meet the standards. Sometimes tests and standards that were put in place were done so for well intentioned reasons, but these reasons may still not be sufficient to avoid a human rights case. Individualized assessments that allow for employees to access reasonable accommodations must be provided. In employment test situations, this may mean that employers who have math tests may need to allow applicants to have calculators. For employers who require spelling, this may mean allowing access to spellcheckers. For employers who expect employees to process print information, this may mean allowing access to accommodation tools that would allow a print disabled person to process the information. Just like an employer might allow a blind person access to text reading software, this accommodation may also be reasonable for a person with a LDs affecting reading skills. Employers need to remember that most of the time on the job, employees have access to such tools as spellchecker, calculators, and other simple aids. Employees can also spend a little extra time completing one aspect of their job and manage their time efficiently so as to complete other aspects of their job more quickly. Disallowing extra time or other simple accommodation aids in recruitment tests can be seem as discriminatory practices against people with LDs.
- Be proactive
Don’t wait for a human rights complaint to make changes. Complaints can be costly in terms of money, time, and reputation. Evaluate current policies, procedures, standards, and tests. Explore if they can meet the Meiorin 3 part test and explore what individualized accommodation procedures could be put into place to facilitate reasonable accommodation requests of persons with LDs. Assess if there is any inadvertent discrimination against persons with LDs embedded in current systems or standards.
- Have Policies, Procedure, and other Relevant Human Rights Information Posted
The more information applicants, employees, and managers have about the legislation, policies and procedures, the better position all will be in to proceed. A web site can be a good place to post this information. Providing training manuals to managers can also help.Ensure the company posts that it is committed to employment equity and human rights principles. Also post all formal policies and procedures that the company follows regarding employment equity, harassment, discrimination and reasonable accommodations.
- Details of Formats and Expectations of Employment Tests Should Be Readily Available
Employment tests often are a specific area of concern for persons with LDs. In addition to ensuring that employment tests used meet the Meiorin criteria, employers should post information on the format and expectations of the tests so that people who need to take these tests can make informed decisions about whether they will need reasonable accommodation. For example, a job applicant may only need accommodation on an essay based test, not a multiple choice test. Knowing the test format can help test-takers decide if disclosure is needed. In addition to test format information, discuss the process testtakers need to undergo to request reasonable accommodations. Who should be contacted to obtain accommodations? Is there a company form that needs to be used? What is the confidentiality policy of the employer regarding the accommodation requests? Having this information posted in a location that can be accessed readily will assist managers as well as test takers.
- Conduct a Workforce Analysis and Consider Outreach to Community LD Organizations
Knowing how many employees you currently have with LDs can be helpful. Determining this may be difficult, however, since many people with LDs choose not to disclose to avoid stigma.Doing an employee survey can be useful nevertheless. A confidential survey can also find out about whether your current workforce has identified any barriers, discrimination, or human rights issues of concerns. Employers are better to know about concerns prior to them becoming official human rights complaints.
- Outreach to Disability Organizations
If your workforce analysis shows that you do not have as many people with disabilities as would be expected given the local demographics, measures should be taken to correct this.Outreach to disability organizations such as the Alder Centre, the Learning Disabilities Program at York University, and the Learning Disabilities Associations can be useful in helping you improve your work force representation. In addition, such outreach can provide valuable information that can be useful in obtaining a barrier-free work environment.
- Ensure the Interview Questions That Managers Ask are Consistent with Human Rights Law
Managers and recruiters need to know what they can and cannot ask applicants. They cannot ask about the nature of the person’s disability. If a disability is disclosed, they can ask about whether any accommodations may be needed to perform the job. Having a disability is only relevant if it affects the person’s ability to perform the essential duties of the job or if it presents a safety risk.
- Ensure managers and other employees know the signs and symptoms of LDs and ways to access information on reasonable accommodation.
A knowledgeable workforce can be proactive in solving problems. If an employee’s work performance is inconsistent or inefficient, a LD should be ruled out before sanctions are applied. Retaining good employees is always preferable to the costs of firing employees and retraining them.
- Individualize Accommodations
Accommodations that employees need are very individual and may even need to change with time, depending on the changing nature of the communication requirements of the job. Employers should ensure open lines of communication with person who needs accommodation so that proper accommodations can be implemented in a timely and effective fashion. Accommodations that maximize integration and efficiency should be considered.It can be useful to have process for documenting accommodating requests and the steps taken to meet employee needs. This can be useful ensuring the accommodation needs are met. Moreover, they can be also helpful later if a human rights complaint is file.
- Ensure dignity of the individual with the disability is respected.
Employees are entitled to practices that allow for self-respect and self-worth to be maintained. Employers should try to ensure employees are not marginalized, stigmatized, ignored, or devalued in policies and procedures. Principles of privacy, confidentiality, autonomy, individuality, and self-esteem all need to be incorporated into practices.
- Identify and Put an End to Any Discrimination or Harassment in the Workplace.
In addition to lowering employee morale and increasing hurt, stress, and absenteeism, discrimination and harassment is against the law. Employers can be held liable by the courts if they do not act to end discrimination and harassment.
- Have a central accommodation fund to protect local unit and specific employees from bearing any financial brunt of accommodations.
Many companies have a central fund to assist local unit managers from worrying about how to find the money to accommodate disability related needs. Most accommodations are free or inexpensive. Nevertheless, when the company provides a central fund to cover more expensive items, this policy frees local managers from worrying about how to fund accommodation request.
- Develop mentoring programs
Mentoring programs can guide new employees in learning the written as well of “unwritten rules” of the organizations. This is a valuable option for all employees, but has particular benefit to persons with LDs who may need additional insight into understanding the rules and culture of an organization.