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The Ontario Human Rights Code and the AODA’s Employment Standards

The first review of the AODA’s Employment Standards became public in 2019. In this review, the AODA Employment Standards Development Committee recommends changes to the existing Employment Standards. In addition, the Committee also identifies barriers that employment-seekers and workers with disabilities face, and recommends strategies to remove these barriers. This article will discuss the Committee’s recommendations for educating employers about connections between the Ontario Human Rights Code and the AODA’s Employment Standards.

the Ontario Human Rights Code and the AODA’s Employment Standards

Ontario employers must follow mandates under both the AODA’s Employment Standards and the Ontario Human Rights Code (the Code). These laws  work together to promote accessibility and reduce discrimination in Ontario. For example, the Employment Standards require employers to develop accommodation plans for workers with disabilities. Similarly, the Ontario Human Rights Code (the Code) protects the right to workplace accommodation for people with disabilities.

When people experience discrimination at work, they can claim discrimination before the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario (HRTO). Moreover, according to the HRTO, fifty percent (50%) of human rights claims are made on the grounds of disability. Furthermore, according to Social Justice Tribunals Ontario, seventy percent (70%) of these complaints cite employment discrimination based on disability.

In addition, the Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC) is an organization that promotes, protects, and advances human rights throughout the province. For instance, the OHRC writes policies to help people understand what types of discrimination are, and how to prevent and respond to them. Furthermore, these policies include guidelines to create spaces and services that respect the rights of all people.

In contrast, the Employment Standards, like the other AODA Standards, require organizations to create policies and practices that identify, remove, and prevent barriers for people with disabilities. These barriers may impact how people access their services, buildings, or employment. For instance, the standards require all organizations to have accessible hiring processes. This mandate ensures that hiring personnel remove barriers for applicants with disabilities.

The Code prevails over all other accessibility laws. In other words, an employer may be accommodating a worker under the Employment Standards, but still need to provide more or different accommodations under the Code.

Educating Employers about the Code and the Employment Standards

However, the Committee reports that employers often do not understand the differences between the Code and the Employment Standards. Moreover, employers do not know how each of these laws applies to them, or what they must do to be compliant with both laws. For example, some managers or human resources personnel are familiar with the Code, but not with the Employment Standards. Similarly, the Committee also reports confusion about the process for making a human rights complaint to the HRTO.

Therefore, the Committee recommends that the government and the OHRC need to find out why this widespread confusion exists. The government and the OHRC then need to create guidelines to clarify employers’ duties to accommodate under both laws.