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Undue Hardship

Under the Ontario Human Rights Code (the Code), employers, landlords, and service providers must accommodate people with disabilities. In other words, organizations have a duty to make changes in order to meet the needs of workers, tenants, customers, or clients with disabilities. Accommodation providers must implement accommodations unless they would cause the provider undue hardship. There are only two reasons a provider can have to claim undue hardship. One is the cost of accommodation for people with disabilities. The other is health and safety concerns about accommodating people with disabilities.

Undue Hardship

The Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC) writes policies to help people understand what types of discrimination are. In addition, these policies outline how to prevent and respond to different forms of discrimination. According to the OHRC’s Policy on Ableism and Discrimination based on disability, accommodation providers do not have to make accommodations if doing so will cause “undue hardship”. In other words, if the cost of making an accommodation would prevent an organization from functioning, the organization does not need to provide that accommodation. Similarly, organizations do not need to provide accommodations that would cause health hazards. However, organizations have a duty to provide all other accommodations, even if they cause some hardship for the provider.

For example, many accommodations cost under five hundred dollars ($500). These accommodations include:

  • Scheduling accommodations, such as:
    • Brief but frequent breaks
    • Shifts at specific times
  • Extensions to deadlines, such as:
    • Rent payments, if someone is in the hospital for disability-related reasons
  • Moving clutter or furniture, to widen aisles
  • Work station accommodations, such as raised or standing desks
  • Communicating with people in a variety of ways, such as:
    • In person
    • By telephone, teletypewriter (TTY), or Video Relay Service (VRS)
    • By email or text
  • Assisting people to fill out forms or navigate buildings

Likewise, other accommodations cost less than one thousand and five hundred dollars ($1500). For instance, these accommodations include:

  • Computer hardware or software, such as:
    • Large monitors
    • Alternative keyboards
    • Speech recognition software
    • Screen reading or screen magnification software

Hardships of Convenience or Morale

Although these accommodations may require some administrative changes, they will not have a large financial impact on a workplace, landlord, or service. Therefore, organizations must provide these accommodations for people who need them, even if staff feel that making these changes or purchases is inconvenient.

For example, an employer may hesitate to provide the accommodation of a private office. The employer may want to avoid resentment from other workers, who wonder why one of their colleagues has privacy and quiet while they do not. Alternatively, the employer may want to avoid the inconvenience of changing schedules to meet someone’s accommodation needs. However, employee morale and inconvenience are not valid reasons for refusing to meet the accommodation needs of a worker, tenant, or client. Instead, the organization providing the accommodations should educate their staff about the mandate to accommodate. As a result, overall morale may improve, as staff recognize that their organization aims to meet the needs of all workers, tenants, and clients.

Our next article will explore some of the costs that can lead to undue hardship, and how to provide more costly accommodations.