Requesting workplace accommodations after disability leave

After being on short- or long-term disability, people returning to work can face obstacles they might not have experienced before their leave. One significant challenge can be returning to a job with conditions that make it difficult or impossible to participate in the workplace fully.

Under these circumstances, an employee can request accommodations that allow them to work. 

What makes an accommodation reasonable?

Under Ontario’s Human Rights Code, employers have a duty to provide accommodations that ensure employees with disabilities have equal access and benefits as other workers. However, one condition is that the accommodation must be appropriate. 

To be reasonable or appropriate, an accommodation must not be highly disruptive to other employees or fundamentally change the nature of the person’s job. Further, it must not put an undue hardship on an employer in the form of substantial expense or resources.

Some examples of an appropriate accommodation include:

  • Ergonomic equipment
  • Adjusted work schedule
  • Accessibility equipment
  • More frequent breaks
  • Additional support

These measures can enable a person to perform the essential functions of their job while preserving their dignity and allowing them to participate fully.

Requesting an accommodation

If you are returning to work and could benefit from an accommodation, you can submit your request to your employer. If you are unsure of what an accommodation might specifically look like, you might discuss the options with your supervisor. You can also consult your physicians or a lawyer to discuss possible solutions.

Keep in mind that any accommodation an employer provides should respect an individual’s dignity and promote integration.

It is also crucial to recognize that an accommodation that works for someone else may not be suitable for you. And your needs can change over time, meaning that you may need to make adjustments in the future.

Unfortunately, not every person will get the accommodations they need, either because an employer wrongfully denies them or the individual does not request them. Not only can this make it incredibly difficult to work, but it can also be a violation of a person’s rights.

Thus, if you are preparing to return to work after being on disability leave, assessing your needs and requesting appropriate accommodations should be high on your list of priorities to make the transition easier.

What protections do I have while on maternity leave?

Welcoming a baby into your family through adoption or birth can be an extraordinary and overwhelming experience. Thus, federal and provincial laws entitle new mothers and fathers to take leave from their job.

During this leave, which could last up to 61 or 63 weeks, parents continue to have rights. Parties who violate these rights can face legal and financial consequences. But what, exactly, are the rights that parents have while they are on leave after having a baby?

Protection from retaliation

Retaliation refers to adverse actions someone takes against a new parent because of status or leave-related decisions. Common examples of retaliatory behaviours include:

  • Demoting an employee for taking leave
  • Transferring an employee to a less desirable location, position or schedule because they are pregnant or about to have a child
  • Hiring someone else in the employee’s role while they are on leave
  • Terminating an employee who has plans to take leave
  • Urging a parent not to take leave to which he or she is entitled

These actions violate a person’s rights, and employers would be wise to ensure no such behaviours occur.

Job and benefits protection

When you take leave as a parent, you should expect to have a job to return to. Even if your exact position is no longer available, your employer must offer a similar role with the same or greater pay you earned before taking leave.

Employees also have the right to continue collecting benefits while on leave. Such benefits include pension and life insurance plans, and employers must continue to cover their share of the premiums. Further, time on leave should still count toward a person’s length-of-service.

That said, there are situations in which an employer can lawfully terminate a person on leave, including:

  • Large-scale downsizing and elimination of a person’s role
  • Termination based on legitimate reasons having nothing to do with the person’s decision to take leave

Whether you are an employer or an employee, it is crucial to take seriously any alleged violations under laws, including the Employment Insurance Act and the Employment Standards Act, 2000.

When an employer violates a new parent’s rights, they and their families can face overwhelming complications and challenges. Thus, they should understand that they also have the right to speak with a lawyer to examine the legal and financial remedies that may be available.

Did my employer wrongfully dismiss me?

Losing a job is devastating. It means loss of income and having to try to find a new job; it can also place incredible stress on individuals and their families. Dismissed employees can also experience a tarnished reputation and loss of professional relationships.

Perhaps the only thing that can make this situation more upsetting is feeling that the dismissal was wrongful. But how do you know if your termination was wrongful?

Notice and or pay in lieu of notice

If you have been employed continuously for three months, your employer must give you written notice of your termination. The amount of time depends on the length of your employment. For instance, if you have been working somewhere for less than a year, your employer must give you a one-week notice; if you have worked there for between five and six years, you should receive notice five weeks before the termination date.

Employers who do not provide written notice must provide termination pay in lieu of notice. The amount of pay equals the regular wages you would have earned during the period you should have received written notice.

These are general guidelines. There are exceptional circumstances and rules that apply if you have an employment contract or if you were temporarily laid off, which changes termination options and protocol. To better understand your situation, you can talk to a lawyer.

Reasons for dismissal

An employer can dismiss employees for any number of reasons. Typically, they do not need to give a reason.

However, the Employment Standards Act dictates that employers cannot dismiss workers for exercising their rights under the ESA, which also protects workers from being terminated for discriminatory reasons.

On the other hand, your employer could let you go for engaging in wilful misconduct or neglect of duty. If this is the reason for your dismissal, you would not be entitled to the same notice and pay other employees must receive.

If you have been let go from your job and feel that you did not get proper notice or termination pay, you could have grounds for a legal claim against your former employer. Pursuing legal action can make it possible to collect financial damages you may deserve.