In Crompton v. Coast 2000 Terminals, the B.C. Human
Rights Tribunal (the Tribunal) reminds employees that there is a
fine line between an employer's duty to inquire about the
accommodation needs of a disabled employee and an employee's
duty to inform his employer that he requires accommodation in the
The Facts of Crompton v. Coast 2000 Terminals
Greg Crompton worked in an executive capacity at Coast 2000
Terminals (Coast), Fraser River Terminals (FRT) and their
predecessor companies for 29 years. In 2004, Crompton was president
of FRT, and he was appointed as vice-president, operations, of
Coast. In July 2007, Crompton suffered an injury that resulted in
the loss of a portion of his foot. He returned to work full time
and to his full range of duties in early 2008.
In 2011, Coast moved Crompton's office from the ground floor of
one building to the second floor of a different building that was
1,000 feet from where Crompton performed most of his duties.
According to Crompton, this relocation caused him significant pain
and discomfort because he frequently had to walk, stand and use the
Crompton filed a complaint at the Tribunal alleging that contrary
to section 13 of the B.C. Human Rights Code, Coast
discriminated against him based on his physical disability when it
relocated his office to a location that aggravated his injury. He
asserted that although he advised a supervisor about the pain and
discomfort caused by the relocation, and although several
supervisors must have observed his difficulty using stairs and
walking around the premises, Coast did nothing to accommodate him.
He argued that Coast had a duty to inquire about his accommodation
needs because it had reason to suspect that his disability was
negatively impacting his ability to work.
Coast brought an application to dismiss Crompton's complaint
arguing that its duty to accommodate did not arise because it did
not know and could not have reasonably known that Crompton required
accommodation for his disability. Crompton was cleared to return to
work and to return to his pre-injury duties. He never informed
Coast about his need for accommodation, he never objected to the
relocation of his office and he was regularly observed moving
freely around the premises without apparent difficulty.
The Reasons for Judgment
The Tribunal denied Coast's application to dismiss the
complaint. On the facts as submitted by Crompton, Coast should have
been aware of the adverse effect the office relocation had on
Crompton's injury, and this triggered Coast's duty to
inquire whether Crompton required accommodation. A full hearing was
required to resolve whether Coast actually knew or should have
known about the pain and discomfort Crompton suffered as a result
of the relocation.
Although the Tribunal did not dismiss the complaint, there was
recognition that an employee must engage accommodation and cannot
rely on an employer's duty to inquire in all circumstances:
"In my mind, there is a significant question as to whether
such duty to inquire would be invoked in circumstances where there
is nothing in the nature of Mr. Crompton's disability which
would prevent him from expressly advising his Employer that he
needed an accommodation with respect to their request that he
occupy an office on the second floor of the executive building. I
see no point in requiring an employer to inquire about the need for
accommodation in circumstances like this where a senior member of
management is perfectly capable of setting out his or her need for
accommodation expressly and, if necessary, in writing."
Significance of Crompton v. Coast 2000 Terminals
Over 20 years ago, the Supreme Court of Canada made it clear
that "[a]n employee must demonstrate the need for
accommodation and make a clear request to be accommodated before
the employer's duty to accommodate is engaged."
(Central Okanagan School District No. 23 v. Renaud). The
Crompton case reaffirms that the duty to accommodate is a two-way
street. While the employer shoulders the ultimate responsibility
for providing accommodation, the employee shares this burden
because he or she must ensure the employer is adequately informed
about the need for accommodation in the first place. The mere fact
that an employee is injured and has been off work is not sufficient
to trigger a continuing duty to accommodate, especially in
circumstances where an employee has been cleared to return to work
without any restrictions. An employer may be aware of an
employee's injury and treatment, but this does not mean that
the employer must assume further accommodation is necessary where
there is an absence of circumstances that would trigger the duty to
inquire. Ultimately, both the employee and the employer share
responsibility for the accommodation process.
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