Don’t Expect Accommodation without Communication

Dealing with disability-related absences can be difficult.  Often employers are too quick to accept a vague doctor’s note, and other times they fail to make any effort at all.  Daniel Lublin offers some reassurance for employers by writing about a recent case that illustrates that discrimination may not be as easy to prove as some employees believe.
Following a car accident, Sean Carter, a program coordinator at a Hamilton rehab clinic took some time off to recover.  When he returned to work, he felt that he was being treated differently.  Workplace stress as well as recent family deaths resulted in depression, which caused a dip in Carter’s performance.  When the clinic tried to manage the situation, Carter opted to take a few weeks off and left a letter explaining that he needed to see a doctor “for some results” – he was fired 5 days later.
The human rights hearing upheld Carter’s dismissal because he failed to make any medical conditions known to his employer, so the note was considered separately from his disability.  Lublin explains that “Not every claim for sick leave leads to a “disability” that must be accommodated.”  Employees are not exempt from responsibility.  An employer’s duty to accommodate is not triggered until the employee has clearly communicated a request.
The best guideline for both employees and employers when dealing with disability-related absences is to ensure open communication. This does not necessarily mean disclosure of a specific disability, but it most certainly does not mean silence.