What if the employee has a disability?

The definition of disability is broad. While we may think of people with mobility disabilities who rely on canes and wheelchairs, disability can include those with vision loss, hearing loss, learning or reading disabilities, or a host of internal illnesses that we may not be able to see with the naked eye. 

Some disabilities may not impact the workplace at all, while others may require some form of accommodation. Accommodation is a two-way street; employees need to work with their employers to help fashion reasonable accommodations that will allow them to succeed in the workplace. This may also require employees providing medical documentation, such as a functional abilities form, that informs the employer clearly what tasks an employee cannot complete due to their disability, and what sort of assistance they might need to succeed in their role. Employers are also not detectives – while they have a legal duty to inquire if they suspect that an employee may need accommodation, they are also not mind readers, and are not expected to automatically implement accommodations based on their best guesses. 

Thus, if you are going to implement performance management on an employee who is known to have a disability, you will want to tread lightly. Penalizing an employee for something related to their disability, such as missing work due to medical appointments, would be discriminatory and can subject your business to a human rights claim. Likewise, if you suspect that an employee’s performance issues may be related to a disability, it is always best to speak with an employment lawyer first before proceeding.

However, that does not mean that disabled employees cannot receive any discipline. If an employee’s performance issues have no connection (or nexus) to their disability, then in all other aspects they can be treated like any other employee. If however there is any doubt, or you spot a possible connection to their disability, check in with an employment lawyer before taking next steps.