March 12, 2019
Living with Injuries: What Are My Rights?
Adjusting to the changes that injuries and disabilities bring can be challenging, as there may be significant alterations to your daily routine. While working with medical professionals to build strength and mobility, it’s important to know what other issues you may face. Learn how to protect yourself from discrimination and harassment, and if you might be entitled to compensation.
Protection Under the Law
Canadian laws grant certain rights and privileges to those with disabilities or physical or psychological challenges. Among other national proclamations, both the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Canadian Human Rights Act of 1977 protect citizens from discrimination and harassment. Discrimination is against the law and comes with consequences. Understanding your rights after you’ve been injured can protect you from unfair treatment.
Forms of Discrimination
Discrimination can be explicit and obvious or more indirect; these subtle “microaggressions” are seen once the bigger picture is revealed or once a pattern of behaviour is acknowledged. There are countless ways that someone might experience discrimination, such as when he/she is:
- Denied services or benefits due solely to their disability.
- Required to make extra (or unnecessary) effort to receive services
- Fired or demoted due to injuries that do not affect the ability to perform their jobs.
Harassment occurs when offensive or violent behaviour is targeted at someone due to their disability. Even if the actions or words are meant to be humorous, they may still be considered harassment. Examples are:
- Disclosing confidential information about someone’s disability to an outside or third party.
- Derogatory slurs or nicknames, teasing, or ridicule.
- Drawings, images, or cartoons that depict people with disabilities in a negative light.
- Unnecessary or intrusive questioning or remarks.
What to Do if You Are Harassed or Discriminated Against
Sometimes (especially when the offender has made an off-colour “joke”), simply confronting and/or educating the person can put an end to the behaviour. However, you may feel it necessary to report this kind of harassment—and you have the right to do so. Ontario’s Human Rights Commission will protect you from reprisal; you cannot be punished for enforcing your rights.
If you experience unfair or unjust treatment, consider taking the following steps:
- Keep detailed notes of each incident
Create a journal that documents any and all incidents. Include the time, date, and location, as well as the names of those involved. These notes may be useful when you report the incident, so keep them as accurate and detailed as possible.
- Retain evidence
Resist the instinct to delete hurtful words (via text, email, social media, etc.) or get rid of physical evidence. If possible, record events on your smartphone and save any offensive or discriminatory photos; this type of evidence is important in proving your case.
- Report the incident
The first step in taking action is to report the incident. Then, you can have advocates (e.g. supervisors, union representatives, teachers, or school guidance counsellors) help you resolve the problem. Know what the policies against harassment and discrimination are in your school or place of work. (Consult with your student/employee handbook, if available, for more information.)
Discriminatory and harassing behaviour often goes unreported due to fear of
retaliation or retribution. Inform the proper authorities about your experiences.
If the matter isn’t resolved to your satisfaction, seek legal assistance.
Filing a Complaint with the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario
If you are a victim of harassment or discrimination by an employer, file a claim through the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario (HRTO). Your employer may be required to compensate you financially or (if applicable) reinstate you to your former position.
The deadline to file a complaint with the HRTO is one year from the date of the incident. If you miss the deadline, the Tribunal may still allow you to file if there is a valid excuse (like being in the hospital). Seek the advice of a qualified lawyer to help you maneuver through the exemption process.
Employers’ Duties to Accommodate
Employers must meet the needs of workers with disabilities and be sure that they enjoy equal access to all opportunities and benefits. Examples of these accommodations are:
- Allowing for a flexible work schedule or adjusting an employee’s hours while he or she recovers from injuries.
- Installing changes to the workspace and/or building (e.g. ramps, automatic door openers, wider doorways).
- Allowing short- or long-term disability leave.
- Offering alternative work if an employee can no longer perform their duties.
- Implement and enforce anti-discrimination and anti-harassment policies.
If you need assistance due to your condition, speak with your employer or union representative. It is their responsibility to work with you to find safe, fair, and reasonable solutions.
Requesting Accommodation from Employers
If you need extra help in performing your duties due to injury or disability, you must:
- Make a request for accommodations in writing.
- Provide pertinent information regarding your disability, including information from healthcare providers.
- Participate in discussions pertaining to accommodation solutions.
- Meet the agreed upon performance standards and job requirements once accommodations are provided.
(Note that employers are not required to make changes if they can prove that doing so will cause them undue hardship.)
The Ontario Disability Support Program
The Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) is available for people who have serious health issues that affect their quality of life. This service offers two types of assistance:
- Income support: Financial assistance for daily expenses and basic necessities like food, clothing, and shelter; in some circumstances, this may also include benefits like drug coverage and vision care.
- Employment support: Career-related services that help those with disabilities find new jobs or advance in their chosen profession.
Who Can Claim Support
To qualify for income support from ODSP, one must meet the definition of a “person with a disability.” A qualified health professional must confirm that:
- The health problem (whether physical or mental) is expected to last for more than a year.
- The health problem inhibits the ability to work or take part in daily activities necessary to live a quality life.
- The health problem limits abilities in a substantial way.
Other qualifications for eligibility require the claimant to be at least 18 years old, a resident of Ontario, and have proof of financial need.
Aside from government support, you may be entitled to compensation from a negligent party if your disability results from an accident. A lawyer can help you get the insurance benefits that may be owed to you.
If you are looking for a personal injury lawyer in Toronto, contact Michelle Linka Law. Our team will assist you in getting the compensation you deserve so you can get back to living your life. For a free consultation, call us at (416) 477-7288.