McGill Centre for Human Rights and Legal Pluralism Centre sur les droits de la personne et le pluralisme juridique de McGill SEMINAR SERIES BUILT ENVIRONMENTS AND ACCESSIBILITY OF PERSONS WITH DISABILITIES 2014-15 Work and Economic Security January 26, 2015 Moderator: Colleen Sheppard, Professor of Law at McGill, Director of the Centre for Human Rights and Legal Pluralism. Resource Persons: Anne-Marie Laflamme, Professor of Law at Laval University and author of the book Le droit à la protection de la santé mentale au travail and Carole Foisy, Chef d'équipe au Comité d’adaptation de la main-d’œuvre [CAMO]. Organized by: Centre for Human Rights and Legal Pluralism (CHRLP); McGill Human Rights Working Group – Disability and the Law Portfolio Summary of Seminar Moderator, Colleen Sheppard, began by highlighting the importance of the topic of Work and Economic Security and introduced the invited speakers. She also reminded the audience of the final seminar on Family and Sexuality that will take place on 26 March 2015. The first speaker, Anne-Marie Laflamme, explained the applicable law in the context of job opportunities for people with disabilities. She explained that under the social model of disability it is understood that the unemployment of people with disabilities is due, not to the disability itself, but to the reaction of society to disability. Professor Laflamme recognized that the Federal government and the Government of Quebec have adopted different kinds of legislative measures to integrate people with disabilities into the workplace. The speaker divided these measures into two approaches: (i) affirmative action and (ii) the duty of accommodation. With respect to affirmative action, she outlined several initiatives and programs that the Quebec government has adopted, including creating financial incentives in the public and private sector to provide a wider range of employment opportunities for people with disabilities. The aim of these proactive strategies is to prevent and correct human resources practices that have discriminatory effects. However, Professor Laflamme recognized that the results of these strategies have been quite limited. The National Strategy for Labour Market Integration and Maintenance of Handicapped persons of 2008 is an example of the type of proactive initiatives adopted by the Government of Quebec. The speaker then explained the second type of approach, which is related to the right to equality and the duty of accommodation. The right to equality has been developed in both the constitutional and statutory context, and is closely connected to anti-discrimination law. In the context of disability rights, Professor Laflamme described the duty of accommodation as the adaptations that the employer is required to make to enable people with disabilities to do their job, and explained that the lack of this accommodation can constitute discrimination on the basis of disability. Giving the example of Hydro-Quebec v. Syndicat des employé de techniques professionalles et de bureau d´hydro-Quebec1, she explained that the Court understands that the duty of accommodation is limited, and only extends to the point of undue hardship, for reasons such as financial cost, the prospect of substantial interference with the rights of others etc.. The speaker explained that the determination of these reasons depends on the particularities of each case. Professor Laflamme then provided practical examples of reasonable accommodations that employers provide, such as flexible working hours, the removal of specific tasks from the job description, the reallocation of an employee to a different part of the business, and the use of new technologies. On a final note, the speaker explained that the duty to accommodate provides assistance primarily to employees who are already on the job when one of the most difficult obstacles facing persons with disabilities is getting hired in the first place. Hydro-Quebec v. Syndicat des employé de techniques professionalles et de bureau d´hydro-Quebec, section locale 2000 (SCFP-FTQ9), 2008 SCC 43, 2 S.C.R 561. 1 Carole Foisy, the second speaker, outlined her work as a team leader at the Comité d’adaptation de la main-d’œuvre [CAMO]. She explained that the organization works strategically with different partners to provide solutions to the barriers that people with disabilities face in education and employment. Ms. Foisy also explained that her organization provides people with disabilities and employers with information and training, and encourages employers to increase job opportunities for people with disabilities. She noted that it is important that hiring procedures be simplified, and that employers innovate to include people with different abilities in their business. Ms. Foisy concluded by emphasizing that diversity remains a tremendous challenge in companies, but also a potential source for organizational enrichment. Following the presentations, seminar participants asked numerous questions and provided additional commentary about the ongoing challenges of diversity, disability and employment. Both speakers emphasized the difficulties encountered by persons with disabilities in getting hired in the first place. Ms. Foisy explained that this challenge underlies her organization’s focus on working with companies and future employers. Indeed, she noted that change must also start in education, including more accessible and inclusive universities for people with disabilities.