Essentially, an employer must provide a workplace that recognizes the differences in a diverse society.

There are often competing and valid interests when the duty to accommodate is engaged.

For example, is it legitimate to require a Sikh employee to wear a hardhat for safety reasons, when such a request may violate his religious beliefs?

An employers’ obligations are significant and require managers to clearly demonstrate their attempts to accommodate the employee.

Thoughts and beliefs will not discharge the duty, an actual investigation of alternatives and adjustments must be performed.

However, as diversity increases, so too do the differences between employees.

While most of these differences present themselves without difficulty, occasionally, workplace rules or managerial perceptions can restrict the ability of certain employees to perform job tasks.

For example, in British Columbia Maritime Employers Assn. International Longshore and Warehouse Union, Local 500 (Dhillon Grievance), the arbitrator found that the employer was not required to allow employees to work in positions without a hard hat where one was required by policy.

In this case, the employer’s process for accommodating such employees by providing them access to other jobs (even if those jobs were preferred positions) satisfied its duty to accommodate.

In these situations, an employer may be faced with a duty to accommodate those employees.

The “duty to accommodate” flows from courts’ interpretation of Human Rights legislation.

They cannot refuse a reasonable accommodation even if that position is not their preferred option.