Accommodating disability in the workplace
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Accommodating Disability in the Workplace. Frida Kahlo. Introduction. The Law Human Rights Undue Hardship The Research Why do some accommodations work and others fail? Method What can Employers Do?. Disability Factors Chronicity Absenteeism Control Visibility.

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Introduction l.jpg

  • The Law

    • Human Rights

    • Undue Hardship

  • The Research

    • Why do some accommodations work and others fail?

    • Method

  • What can Employers Do?

Slide3 l.jpg

  • Outside Agency Factors

  • Omnipotent Physician

  • Agency

  • Financial Threat

  • Diagnosis and Time off for Recovery

  • Precipitous Returns

Coworkers & Union

  • Employee Factors

  • Locus of Control

  • Behaviour

  • Emotional Overlay

  • Deceptive Independence

  • Scamming

  • Employer Factors

  • Procedural Justice

  • Investigation

  • Recalcitrance

  • Policy Gaps

  • Culture

Beginning Balance SOCIAL CAPITAL Ending Balance




  • Performance History

  • Discipline

  • Absenteeism

  • Difficult Coworker Relations

  • Previous Disability


Employee work history l.jpg

“You get to know your people after a while, you get to know who is playing, who is honest…When you’ve got somebody that has screwed you in the past and then they have a legitimate injury, you wind up getting blinders on.”

Employee work history5 l.jpg

Is this employee’s work history contributing to the difficult RTW?



Difficult Peer Relations

Sault Area Hospitals Case

Breaching organizational norms

Previous Disability

How can we address the situation?

Preparing peers for the RTW

Validate disability

Provide strategies to the returning employee

Focus on abilities and contribution

Return to a different unit


Disability factors l.jpg

“Now here was a guy that had broken his ankle…Returned to work too early, became permanently injured as a result…They brought him inside into the plant on a temporary basis, until he was able to recover…He made a lot of bad personal choices about how he was going to deal with stuff. Ended up being discharged.”

Disability factors7 l.jpg

Is this difficult RTW related to the nature of the disability itself?

Precipitous Returns

Chronicity and Absenteeism

Visibility and Legitimacy

Symptom Control

Multiple Illnesses

How can we address the situation?

Functional capacity exams

Permanent vs. temporary accommodation

Management and Employee education

Person-job matching




Employee factors l.jpg
EMPLOYEE FACTORS disability itself?

“They are so sick and tired of being sick and tired. They are so sick and tired of filling out forms. They are so sick and tired of people not believing that they are ill. That they just give up.”

“There’s others that come back on modified return to work and oh gawd, it’s like be careful don’t do too much. And that’s another dangerous group.”

Employee factors9 l.jpg

Is this difficult RTW related to the employee’s behaviour or perceptions of that behaviour?

Behaviours, Attitudes, and Traits

Evasiveness, refusing treatment, ambivalence

Locus of control

Deceptive Independence

Emotional Overlay


How can we address the situation?

Make the process clear and consistent

Communicate***, in-person and provide documentation

Small, manageable steps, positive reinforcement

Emphasize/reward adherence to limitations and treatment plan

Refer to EAP

Management training:

Signs and symptoms of depression


Workplace factors l.jpg
WORKPLACE FACTORS or perceptions of that behaviour?

“When asked in cross-examination why he made the harassment allegation, the grievor said three things. First, he was not being treated the same as other employees; second, he did not want to be absent due to his handicap and it did not help the situation when he was told not to be absent; third, he was not able to have any input into the meetings to discuss his absences.” (Greater Victoria Hospital Society, 1998, para. 69).

Workplace factors11 l.jpg

Is this difficult RTW related to the way we’ve managed it? or perceptions of that behaviour?

Accommodation Effort



Employee Involvement

Procedural Justice

Policy Gaps

Who is responsible?

Worker replacement policies

Union/Management Relations

How can we address the situation?

Focus on RTW vs. illness legitimacy

Involve the employee and union from the beginning

Employer initiated contact

Appropriate accommodation cost allocation

Reward systems

RTW coordinator

With authority and a budget

Additional workers to fairly allocate tasks


Outside agency factors l.jpg
OUTSIDE AGENCY FACTORS or perceptions of that behaviour?

“Everybody thinks a doctor is there to help you, a doctor is there to make money and they are running a business and they went to school to run that business. So, some doctors are more than happy to write doctors notes. It means the patient will come back to get more doctors notes. That really, I think, muddies and discredits something like duty to accommodate.”

Outside agency factors13 l.jpg

Is this RTW complicated by difficult relations with outside agencies?

The Omnipotent Physician

Physician as Agent

Infinite Expertise


Bias – Anti-employer, anti-employee, anti-union?

Threatened Financial Coverage

Immediately post-injury – claim delays

LTD – WCB, Insurer, or EI

Amount and Duration

How can we address the situation?

Union as intermediary

Focus on super-ordinate goals

Review sick time policies

Dr.’s note requirements?

Financial coverage prior to STD?

Employees whose covered sick time has maxed out?


Slide14 l.jpg

CONCLUSION agencies?

  • It may be one or it may be all

  • How does the organization want to utilize it’s resources?

  • Proactively address organizational issues, then respond to individual circumstances

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