Employer Attitudes Towards Disability in the Workplace: A Descriptive Study of the Policy Environment

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Murray, Anna
Employment , AODA , Ontario Human Rights Code , Disability policy
Purpose: The purpose of this thesis was to: a) describe the current context of Ontario’s employment policies by conducting a policy analysis to understand the ways in which the Ontario Human Rights Code, the Labour Relations Act, and Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) function together to provide a framework for action to guide employer attitudes towards disabilities in the private sector of Ontario, and b) investigate employer knowledge/understanding and application of these three policies in the Ontario private sector by conducting interviews. Methods: To perform the policy analysis, relevant documents were systematically collected and qualitatively analyzed. In addition to the policy analysis, semi-structured interviews were conducted with three employers to investigate the policy knowledge and application in the workplace. Results: From the policy analysis, ten themes arose: anti-discrimination and accommodation, the individual complaint system of the Ontario Human Rights Code, the need for government participation, education, and awareness in the AODA, the application of the Labour Relations Act, required employer knowledge of the three Ontario policies, minority group treatment of people with disabilities in policy, the collectivist responsibility under the AODA, the definition of disability, the impact of the definition of disability on employers, and the cost of accommodation. The themes arising from employer interviews were: view of disability, knowledge and application of the three policies, the “fit” of a prospective employee, the importance of a human resources department, and the presence of accessibility in the workplace. Summary: Together, the three policies addressed anti-discrimination in the workplace for employees with disabilities by mandating reasonable accommodation for all. Under the AODA, standards of accommodation were established and enforced through random government inspections, and under the Ontario Human Rights Code, accommodation challenges were addressed by a case-by-case method. Employers must be privy to the responsibility to provide accommodations for people with disabilities, as the enforcement mechanisms differ. In reality, there is a large variance in the application of the central policies, and employers without a human resources department appear to understand fewer details of the policy requirements. This understanding did not appear to impede accommodation for employees with disabilities.
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