,Recently, Zubas Flett Lawyer, Ted Flett, was featured in a case comment published by Canadian HR Reporter. The article discussed a Human Rights Tribunal decision that underscores that an employer does not need to provide requested accommodations in order to comply with the law.
Ontario employer met duty to accommodate, despite worker’s disenchantment
In the case of Christian v Amazon Canada Fulfilment Services, ULC, 2023 HRTO 57, the Tribunal found that an Ontario employer met the statutory duty to accommodate despite the employee’s dissatisfaction with the accommodations provided.
“Employers are required to accommodate but do not have to provide an employee’s preferred accommodation – duties within the employee’s medical restrictions are reasonable”, said Flett. “The duty to accommodate is an evolving and multi-party inquiry. The evidence in this matter revealed that the employer listened to the worker’s concerns and displayed a willingness to consider other duties than initially proposed in an effort to be flexible and accommodating.”
Amazon Canada Fulfilment Services is a subsidiary of global internet retailer Amazon.com. The worker was hired on February 18, 2018 to be an FC associate in Amazon’s warehouse in Brampton, Ontario. In June, about four months after the worker started, she reported physical issues that affected her ability to use one or both of her hands and prevented her from performing her full job duties. She provided a medical note and filed a Report of Injury form. Amazon offered modified duties that avoided handling heavy objects but lifting light plastic bins and dislodging objects on the lines with a pole. The worker accepted the offer, which indicated that her limitations were “avoiding repetitive use of both wrists against resistance.”
In October, the worker had three medical absences supported by doctor’s notes. The third note indicated that the worker had to remain on modified duties and said “desk/office/duties preferred.”
Shortly after beginning hazmat duties, on November 3, the worker stopped coming to work. She felt that the modified duties were embarrassing and exacerbated a mental health condition. On November 9, she told Amazon that she would be absent due to accumulated work-related stress.
The Tribunal found that the worker had a disability within the meaning of Ontario’s Human Rights Code. However, it also found that each of the modified duties Amazon offered – and which the worker accepted – was reasonable. The tribunal determined that Amazon showed a willingness to consider different duties that were within the worker’s restrictions and adjusted them several times. The worker objected to the removal of administrative duties, but they weren’t available at the time. Amazon was not legally required to provide the worker’s preferred accommodation, the Tribunal said.
“What Amazon did right was establishing and following processes and procedures that ensured compliance with the Human Rights Code and it immediately accommodated the injured worker by offering her modified duties that were compliant with the employee’s functional restrictions”, Flett was quoted as saying. “Amazon also involved the employee in the decision-making process and showed flexibility when she was unsatisfied with the modified duties.”
See Christian v Amazon Canada Fulfilment Services, ULC, 2023 HRTO 57
If you have any questions or inquiries regarding accommodating employees, contact Zubas Flett Law at 416-593-5844 or firstname.lastname@example.org.