Document 17831206

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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.
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