Being sensitive to employees’ environmental sensitivities (Legal view)

New disability added by Canadian Human Rights Commission poses challenges in workplace
By Ronald Minken
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 09/18/2008

In May 2007, the Canadian Human Rights Commission (CHRC) wrote two reports on the topic of environmental sensitivity. Based on these reports, the commission created a policy in June 2007 establishing environmental sensitivity as a disability that requires reasonable accommodation by an employer to the point of undue hardship.

As with any disability, what is classified as undue hardship varies on a case-by-case basis, depending on many factors including the scope of the employee’s disability and the extent to which an employer is able to accommodate.

Similar to other disabilities, there is no list of criteria stating what must be fulfilled by an employer to meet its duty to accommodate an employee with environmental sensitivities. These can be activated by numerous triggers in the workplace, none of which are automatically shared by all individuals with the disability. Therefore, the accommodations required for one employee may not be the same for another.