For 30 years, the Americans with Disabilities Act prohibited discrimination against individuals in public places, including employees at work. Among other requirements, an employer must make a reasonable accommodation so that an employee with a disability can meet their essential job functions. Clearly setting forth these essential job functions can help protect an employer in an ADA employment law action.
Essential job functions
The US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has defined essential job functions. These are the basic job duties that an employee may perform, with or without reasonable accommodation.
Elements of an essential function include whether that position was set up to perform that particular function, the number of other employees who are available to perform that function or can perform parts of it, and the amount of skill and expertise needed to perform that function.
A reasonable accommodation is any job change or modification to the job or work environment that will allow a qualified applicant or employee with a disability to apply for the job or perform its essential functions. It also includes modifications so that a qualified person with a disability has the same rights and privileges in their job as other employees.
The EEOC will consider many items as evidence as essential functions for the job. These include the employer’s assessment of the essential functions for a job, the experience of previous and current employees performing that job, any consequences of the position remaining unfilled and any collective bargaining agreement.
An employer should carefully review each job position to determine the job’s essential functions. This should be completed before advertising for job applicants, recruiting, hiring, promoting or firing.
The ADA does not require an employer to hire an individual who is unable to perform all the essential function of the job, even if a reasonable accommodation is made. But employers cannot reject a job applicant because they cannot perform a function that is not essential to the job and which is also performed by other employees.
Job description tips
A strong job description contains:
- Job title.
- Salary including grade or range.
- The title of their supervisor of department.
- Work hours including overtime and its frequency.
- Necessary education, experience or skill qualifications.
- Essential functions including 90 to 95 percent of the job’s main functions and tasks ranked according to their importance or time required for completion.
- Special requirements such as physical skills like lifting or prolonged standing and soft skills such as communications.
The description should be written in plain and non-technical language that is easily understood. Jargon and technical terms must be avoided.
A disclaimer is also very important. The description should also include a term that the applicant will receive other duties as assigned and that the job description may be changed.
ADA enforcement has the same procedures used in the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Complaints may be filed with the EEOC.
Hiring, reinstatement, back pay and court orders stopping discrimination and requiring accommodation are among the remedies. Financial remedies may include compensatory damages for actual and future monetary losses, mental anguish and inconvenience. Punitive damages may be awarded when an employer acted with malice or recklessness. Additionally, attorney’s fees can be ordered.
An attorney can help develop a job description that meets ADA requirements and helps prevents compliance and legal problems. They can also help employers take other steps to assure ADA compliance.