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Disability Rights in the Workplace.docx

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Queen's University
COMM 181
Christine Coulter

Nida Noorani 10007646 Disability Rights in the Workplace: The Duty to Accommodate September 28, 2012 The relationship between employers and employees is governed by various factors, including the employment contract, human rights legislation and the common law. One of the most challenging circumstances in which these three factors intersect is the management and accommodation of employees with disabilities. I know an exceptionally intelligent individual named Charles (real name has been omitted for privacy reasons), who has Cerebral Palsy. He is studying to be a teacher in the Faculty of Education at Queen’s University. A few questions may already have arisen in your mind. How will he teach? Who will hire him to be a teacher? These are questions that I struggle with everyday. When I see Charles on Tuesday and Thursday nights to help him take notes in his History Curriculum class, I cannot help but relate the concepts of this course to his experience. Today, Charles was informed that he will not be given a placement for the practical component of his teaching program. As Charles slowly approaches the work place environment after a Bachelor’s Degree in English and History and a Master’s Degree in Irish History, Charles is beginning to hear what he has always tried to avoid: that he will not be accommodated. For me, this reflective learning brief comes at an opportune time because I’m not sure whose side to be on. There is no doubt that the duty to accommodate is an important element of employment equity in our society today; however, for many employers, the duty to accommodate can establish itself as a substantial restriction on the management of Nida Noorani 10007646 their businesses. These two ideas, employment equity and an employer’s ability to manage the workplace, are commonly rivaled against one another. In an attempt to achieve a workable balance between these often-competing interests, the courts apply a specific standard, which requires employers to reasonably accommodate employees falling within a prohibited discrimination category “up to the point of undue hardship.” As is customary, the legal jargon in this space is tricky to interpret. What constitutes undue hardship? Factors to be considered in assessing undue hardship include financial cost, disruption of a collective agreement, problems of morale of other employees, interchangeability of the workforce and facilities, and size of the employer’s operations and safety. iii Let’s relate this back to Charles situation. Schools are a unique environment in the sense that there are two considerations: they can be government-owned and operated or they can be private which would mean that they might face different employment equity standards; and schools ultimately have to respect the learning of the student. Would a school face any of the above factors listed if they hired? In my opinion, the school would not. Charles visited a high school where the school was willing to take him on for three weeks a
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