Can a job function that is only rarely performed be
considered essential under the Americans with Disabilities
Act (ADA)? The answer to that question might surprise
Most of us have heard the term, “essential job function
(EJF).” An EJF is a fundamental job duty of a position.
What is (and is not) an EJF can depend on several factors,
according to a court case in the Eighth Circuit Court of
Appeals (Jeff Knutson v. Schwan Food Company).
In this case, the company was a delivery service that uses
large trucks and requires drivers to be certified by the
Department of Transportation (DOT). Even though facility
managers did not often make deliveries, they were required
to be DOT certified.
One of the managers received a disabling eye injury and
was not able to drive a truck. The manager asked for an
accommodation under the ADA and the company denied stating
that driving a truck was an essential function of the job.
Since the manager was unable to perform an EJF, the
company terminated his services.
The court found that the company was not required to
provide the manager with the accommodation, since the
manager was not able to perform an essential function of
the job (i.e., drive a truck).
Even though the manager rarely had to drive, job functions
that aren’t performed that often can still be “essential”
functions of the job.
Important things to consider when trying to determine
whether a job function is essential include:
*The company’s judgment as to which functions are
*Written job descriptions prepared before advertising or
interviewing applicants for the job.
*The amount of time spent on the job performing the
*The consequences of not requiring the employee to perform
*The current work experience of employees in similar jobs
at the company.
HR POINTER: Companies need to make a point to review job
descriptions on a regular basis.
The reasons for having job descriptions are:
#1 Assess Compliance with ADA:
**Essential vs. non-essential job functions.
#2 Assess FLSA compliance for Exempt/Non-Exempt Status:
**Exercise of discretion and independent judgment.
**Compliance with labor laws.
**Development of structured interview questions.
**Compare details of open job to a candidate’s experience.
#4 Training New Employees.
#5 Placement within a Wage & Salary Program.
#6 Evaluation of Performance:
**Clarity of Expectations.
**Provides an opportunity to capture “work creep.”
To understand how we create standards-based job
descriptions, click on the link below.