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Identifying Essential Job Functions under the ADA
July 31, 2006
Many individuals with disabilities are qualified to perform the essential functions of jobs without need of any accommodation. However, if an individual with a disability who is otherwise qualified cannot perform one or more essential job functions because of his or her disability, the employer, in assessing whether the person is qualified to do the job, must consider whether there are modifications or adjustments that would enable the person to perform these functions.
What are Essential Functions?
The "essential functions" are the fundamental "job duties of the employment position the individual holds or desires".
When Determining Essential Functions, Review:
- The employer's judgment as to which functions are essential
- Written job descriptions prepared before advertising or interviewing
- Amount of time spent on the task
- The terms of a collective bargaining agreement
- Consequences of not performing the task
What Makes a Function Essential?
- Whether the employer actually requires employees in the position to perform the function
- Whether removing the function would fundamentally alter that position
- Whether the position exists to perform a specific function
- The number of other employees available to perform that job function, or among whom the performance of that job function can be distributed
- The degree of expertise or skill required to perform the function
Examples of Essential Functions
1. File Clerk
A file clerk position description may state that the person holding the job answers the telephone, but if in fact the basic functions of the job are to file and retrieve written materials, and telephones actually or usually are handled by other employees, a person whose hearing impairment prevents use of a telephone and who is qualified to do the basic file clerk functions should not be considered unqualified for this position.
A person is hired to proofread documents. The ability to proofread accurately is an essential function, because this is the reason that this position exists. A company advertises a position for a "floating" supervisor to substitute when regular supervisors on the day, night, and graveyard shifts are absent. The only reason this position exists is to have someone who can work on any of the three shifts in place of an absent supervisor. Therefore, the ability to work at any time of day is an essential function of the job.
For More Information
- Title I Technical Assistance Manual, Chapter II - Who is Protected
ADA Document Portal
- Contact your regional ADA & I T Technical Assistance Center
Phone: 1-800-949-4232 (v/tty)
The Southeast Disability and Business Technical Assistance Center (DBTAC) is authorized by the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR) to provide information, materials, and technical assistance to individuals and entities that are covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) under Grant #H133D010207. However, you should be aware that NIDRR is not responsible for enforcement of the ADA For more information or assistance, please contact the Southeast DBTAC via its web site at www.sedbtac.org or by calling 1-800-949-4232 (TTY/voice).