This online version is for convenience; the official version of this policy is housed in the University Secretariat. In case of discrepancy between the online version and the official version held by the Secretariat, the official version shall prevail.
Approving Authority: Board of Governors
Original Approval Date: January 25, 2007
Date of Most Recent Review/Revision: June 1, 2023
Office of Accountability: Chief Human Resources & Equity Officer
Administrative Responsibility: Human Resources
1.01 The purpose of this policy is to outline:
• Wilfrid Laurier University’s commitment towards building an inclusive workplace that honours the dignity and diversity of all employees;
• Wilfrid Laurier University’s Duty to Accommodate required by the Ontario Human Rights Code (OHRC), the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA), and any other relevant legislation.
• The roles and responsibilities of those involved in the accommodation process, which must be a collaborative process with a shared responsibility to participate.
2.01 The Duty to Accommodate: refers to the University’s obligation to take reasonable steps to the point of Undue Hardship, to adjust or modify the work environment or the method of doing work in order to address the individual needs of employees and job applicants who are protected from discrimination under the Ontario Human Rights Code because of a Protected Ground.
2.02 Protected Ground: as described by the Ontario Human Rights Code, includes Age, Ancestry (including Race), Citizenship, Creed (religion), Disability, Ethnic Origin, Family Status, Gender Identity and Gender Expression, Marital Status, Record of offences, Sex (including sexual harassment, pregnancy, and breastfeeding) and Sexual Orientation. The principle of employment accommodation applies to all Protected Grounds, but issues related to employment most often relate to disabilities, creed/religion and family care obligations. The Ontario Human Rights Code prohibits actions or omissions that discriminate against people based on a Protected Ground.
2.02 Employment Accommodation: is an ongoing process of adjusting or modifying the work environment, schedule or the method of doing work in order to address the individual needs of employees and job applicants who are protected from discrimination under the OHRC. Accommodations may be temporary or on-going and involves finding reasonable solutions within an equity lens but may not always align with individual preferences.
Examples of accommodation include, but are not limited to:
• Work station adjustments and physical space modifications
• Assistive technologies and alternative formats
• Temporary or permanent modified duties
• Leaves of absence
• Changes to or flexibility in hours of work including extended breaks throughout the work period
• Accessible parking
• Name change
2.03 Disability: inclusive of the OHRC definition, refers to any physical or mental conditions that limit a person’s movements, senses or activities. Disabilities can be episodic, temporary, or permanent and can be visible to others or invisible. The United Nations’ Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities recognizes that Disability is an evolving concept and that Disability is socially constructed through combinations of impairments and environmental Barriers, such as attitudinal Barriers, inaccessible information, inaccessible built environment or other Barriers that affect a person’s full participation in society.
2.04 Family Status: the state of being in a parent-child type relationship, including relationships based on blood, adoption and care, responsibility and commitment. At its core, Family Status includes parents caring for children and people who are the primary caregivers for aging parents or relatives with disabilities.
2.05 Creed/Religion: typically involves a particular and comprehensive system of faith and worship or a non-religious belief system that substantially influences a person’s identity, worldview, and way of life. The following characteristics are relevant when considering if a belief system is a religion or creed. A religion or creed:
• Is sincerely, freely and deeply held
• Is integrally linked to a person’s identity, self-definition and fulfillment
• Is a particular and comprehensive, overarching system of belief that governs one’s conduct and practices
• Addresses ultimate questions of human existence, including ideas about life, purpose, death, and the existence or non-existence of a Creator and/or a higher or different order of existence
• Has some “nexus” or connection to an organization or community that professes a shared system of belief.
2.06 Gender Identity and Gender Expression: Gender Identity includes each person’s internal and individual experience of gender while Gender Expression includes how a person publicly expresses or presents their gender.
2.07 Sex: refers to the biological category an individual is generally assigned at birth and is typically categorized as male or female. Breastfeeding is protected under this Protected Ground.
2.08 Accessibility: used to describe a product, device, service, or environment which is available to as many people as possible. Accessibility is concerned with inclusiveness and Barrier-free designs (the identification, removal, and prevention of Barrier). Accessibility can be viewed as a person’s access to and benefit from a system or entity in a way that upholds the principles of dignity, independence, integration and equality of opportunity. Creating an accessible environment reduces the need for Employment Accommodations.
2.09 Barrier: anything that prevents a person’s full participation in all aspects of society because of a Protected Ground. For people with Disabilities, Barriers in the workplace are often systemic may include physical Barriers, architectural Barriers, information or communications Barriers, attitudinal Barriers, technological Barriers, or policies and procedures that inadvertently pose Barriers.
2.10 Ableism: is a belief system, analogous to racism, sexism or ageism, that sees persons with Disabilities as being less worthy of respect and consideration, less able to contribute and participate, or of less inherent value than others. Ableism may be conscious or unconscious, and may be embedded in institutions, systems or the broader culture of a society. It can limit the opportunities of persons with Disabilities and reduce their inclusion in the life of their communities.
2.11 Undue Hardship: the excessive hardship placed on an employer associated with an accommodation when considering cost, availability of external funding and health and safety considerations. While accommodations may involve inconvenience, it is not a factor in determining Undue Hardship.
2.12 Universal Design: is the design and composition of an environment, employment systems and practices that can be accessed, understood, and used by the greatest extent possible by all people regardless of their differences. By considering the diverse needs and abilities of all current and potential employees throughout the design process, Universal Design principles aim to lessen the need for individual accommodations as the workplace is more accessible to everyone.
2.13 Employees: A person who performs work for wages in any capacity for the University.
3.01 The policy applies to all Employees and job applicants for employment.
4.01 Working collaboratively with Employees, and others, Wilfrid Laurier University will provide reasonable accommodations to Employees to enable them to perform the essential duties of their role, or if required and available, provide an alternate role that the Employee is qualified to perform.
4.02 Wilfrid Laurier University will support the accommodation of Employees and job applicants in a manner which respects dignity, is equitable, individualized and provides for the ability to compete for jobs, perform work and fully participate in employment.
4.03 Individuals have the responsibility to communicate any known accommodation needs and to cooperate with and participate actively in the Employment Accommodation process.
4.04 Wilfrid Laurier University recognizes that Barriers exist for some Employees, including those with Disabilities. When developing and redesigning employment systems, practices and policies, Laurier is committed to embedding Universal Design principles so those systems, practices and policies support our diverse workforce.
4.05 The University will work to achieve a workplace free of Barriers by providing reasonable accommodations for the needs of those individuals covered by the OHRC, up to the point where it causes Undue Hardship. Every effort will be made such that the impact of accommodation will not discriminate against another group protected by the Code or any Health and Safety regulations. All reasonable accommodation requests will be taken into consideration.
4.06 Where there are alternate ways to provide accommodation without incurring Undue Hardship, the University will work with Employees, and others, to collaborate on decisions related to Accommodations. The University reserves the right to accommodate in the manner most consistent with the University’s operational and academic requirements.
4.07 Wilfrid Laurier University will work collaboratively with academic and administrative leaders, unions and employee groups to educate, inform and raise the level of awareness within the community about Employment Accommodation, Universal Design, Ableism, Accessibility and Barriers.
4.08 The University is responsible for ensuring that current University policies, practices, and procedures are reviewed on an ongoing basis to identify and eliminate barriers to employment on the basis of prohibited grounds of discrimination.
4.09 The Duty to Accommodate: General Principles
In order to meet the needs of individuals affected, the overriding principles of approach should be those of:
a) Individualization: designing accommodation to meet the specific circumstances of each employee or job applicant
b) Partnership: involving the person requiring the accommodation, administrators and managers of the university, unions and any medical practitioners or other third parties with specialized expertise
c) Consultation: involving those in the partnership in development of the accommodation plan
d) Inclusion: ensuring that the person to be accommodated is involved in the process and plan design
e) Respect for confidentiality and dignity
f) Written accommodation plans: in cases involving Disability accommodation, written accommodation plans will be developed in accordance with the requirements under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act.