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Ontario’s New Human Rights Policy

By Catherine Coulter

In mid-June, the Ontario Human Rights Commission released a new policy entitled ‘The Policy on Preventing Discrimination Based on Mental Health Disabilities and Addictions’, which builds on the commission’s prior ‘Policy and Guidelines on Disability and the Duty to Accommodate’.

The Disability Policy covers some of the following areas: recognising mental health disabilities and addictions, establishing discrimination, forms of discrimination, reprisal, the duty to accommodate, undue hardship and preventing and responding to discrimination (including the development of policies, education and training). Although the Disability Policy covers protection from discrimination in the course of employment, it also applies to protection from discrimination in relation to goods, services, accommodation and housing.

Particularly important for employers to note is the commission’s statement that when employees request accommodation due to disability, the employer is not generally to ‘second guess’ the health status of an employee. That presumption can be overruled in a situation where there is a legitimate reason to question the employee; however, the general rule is for the employer to take the request in good faith without seeking additional medical documentation. In the words of the commission, ‘where more information about a person’s disability is needed, the information requested must be the least intrusive of the person’s privacy while still giving the accommodation provider enough information to make the accommodation’…

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