By Nadine Vogel
President, Springboard Consulting LLC

Essential functions job descriptions are a crucial component of HR compliance, especially useful in the mitigation of risk when it comes to the talent acquisition, management, and potential termination of individuals with disabilities. In light of recent changes made to the ADA and pending OFCCP legislation, essential functions has also become a crucial component of diversity as CDOs strive to include and properly support individuals with disabilities in their workplace.

When completed appropriately, at a minimum, this process serves as the key document to determine if applicants are qualified for a given position, when responding to ADA accommodation compliance issues, and as an added and critical component of an organization’s performance management system.

Essential functions are defined as basic job duties that an employee must be able to perform, with or without reasonable accommodation, and should be included in each job description, according to the ADA.

A job function may be considered essential for any of several reasons, including but not limited to the following:

  1. The reason the position exists is to perform that function;
  2. There are a limited number of employees available among whom the performance of that job function can be distributed; and/or
  3. It’s highly specialized—the incumbent in the position is hired for his or her expertise or ability to perform that particular function.

Evidence of whether a particular function is essential includes, but is not limited to:

  1. The employer’s judgment as to which functions are essential;
  2. Written job descriptions prepared before advertising or interviewing applicants for the job;
  3. The amount of time spent on the job performing the function;
  4. The consequences of not requiring the incumbent to perform the function;
  5. The work experience of current and past incumbents in the job.

A duty is typically considered an essential function of the position if it’s important to the company’s operation, performed with frequency, there isn’t sufficient staff to reassign it, and it can’t be redesigned or performed in another way among other criteria.

In establishing the essential functions of a company’s many position descriptions, the following must take place:

  1. A comprehensive review and analysis of each of the organization’s documented job descriptions.
  2. Individual interviews to better understand work experiences of incumbents in similar jobs.
  3. A comprehensive review of the company’s related policies and procedures including but not limited to an organization’s Talent Acquisition Process, it’s RAC, Reasonable Accommodations Committee, and Performance Management System.

Many readers may ask, is this really necessary? It sounds like a lot of work in the midst of many competing priorities. The quick answer is yes.

Nadine Vogel

Nadine Vogel

Nadine Vogel is the CEO of Springboard Consulting LLC. Founded in 2005, Springboard is recognized as the expert in mainstreaming disability in the global workforce, workplace, and marketplace. Serving corporations and organizations throughout the U.S., Canada, Europe, and Asia, Springboard has become a trusted partner in relation to disability issues and initiatives across virtually every business category. For more information, please contact Nadine Vogel at Springboard Consulting. Nadine is also the author of Dive In: Springboard into the Profitability, Productivity, and Potential of the Special Needs Workforce.