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Glossary of Relevant Terms
Accommodation refers to equipment, practices or policies that enable an employee with a disability to succeed in the workplace. Examples of accommodation include additional equipment or modifications to existing equipment (e.g. modified keyboards), flexible hours of work or modified work schedule, additional training, modified work environment (lower lighting, quiet areas, etc.) and customized work duties.
In BC, unfair treatment or being refused a benefit because of your disability is considered discrimination. For example, an employer refusing accommodation or dismissing you from your job because of your disability is discrimination. For exceptions see BFOR and Duty to Accommodate in this section. It is also discrimination to not hire you because of your disability; however, providing evidence can be difficult.
Disclosure refers to telling an employer about your disability or chronic health condition. The most important factor in deciding whether or not to disclose to an employer is your ability to do the job. If your disability will not affect your ability to do the job, you are not required to disclose. If you will require accommodation to do the job, you must disclose.
BFOR (Bona Fide Occupational Requirement)
A bona fide occupational requirement (BFOR) is a job requirement or qualification that is essential to completing the job safely and efficiently. An employer is not required to accommodate a disability if it can show that the specific job duty or requirement is a bona fide occupational requirement. For example, operation of a vehicle to transport equipment from one work site to another would qualify as a BFOR. Accommodating a worker who is blind would not be a reasonable expectation.
A disability is a condition or illness—visible or invisible, episodic or continuous— that affects a person’s senses or activities. Examples of disabilities include physical and sensory disabilities (quadriplegia, vision or hearing loss, etc.), mental health disabilities (including addiction), developmental disabilities, learning disabilities, brain injuries and chronic health conditions such as arthritis, hepatitis C, diabetes, morbid obesity and others. The disability does not need to be permanent; however, a short-term health issue such as the flu would not qualify for accommodation in the workplace.
Duty to Accommodate
Employers have a “duty to accommodate” disabilities of employees and potential employees up to the point of “undue hardship.” In determining whether an employer has reached a point of “undue hardship,” the courts will consider financial costs; health and safety risks; and, size and flexibility of the workplace.