The evolution of accommodation

By Ron LeClair
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 09/04/2003

Since its acceptance into Canadian human rights law in the mid-1980s, the duty to accommodate has been evolving and expanding.

The duty to accommodate arises where discrimination is found to exist in a workplace policy or rule. Initially, human rights law made a distinction between direct and indirect discrimination.

A workplace rule or policy which resulted in direct discrimination was either struck down by an adjudicator, or in some cases, permitted as a bona fide occupational requirement. Indirect discrimination was the result of a policy or rule that appeared neutral (such as the requirement that an employee wear a hard hat) but which had an exclusionary effect on an employee or group of employees (such as an employee who was required to wear a turban as a tenet of his religious faith). In cases where indirect discrimination was found to exist, the focus was not on the employer’s rules or policies, but rather on individual accommodation.