Essential Job Functions

HR Glossary for HR Professionals

Glossary of the most common HR terms and acronyms to assist professionals navigating the ever-growing and ever-changing world of HR terminology.

Essential Job Functions

What are essential job functions?

Essential job functions are the job duties an employee must be able to perform with or without a reasonable accommodation. As long as an employee can perform the essential job function, the employee is protected from discrimination under the ADA. It is important for employers to determine essential job functions and include them in job descriptions before posting or advertising the job. 

What factors should be considered when determining the essential functions of a job

According to the EEOC, factors to determine if a function is essential include: 

  • If the position exists to perform the job function. For example, the job function of a bus driver is to drive the bus.  
  • The number of employees available to perform the function 
  • The degree or expertise required to perform the function. For example, a position serving a diverse market may need an employee who is bilingual. 

The EEOC considers evidence of essential functions including: 

  • The employer’s judgement: While this is a factor, it’s usually not the only factor taken into consideration when it comes to evidence
  • Job descriptions 
  • Work experience of past or present employees in the job
  • Time spent performing the function. For example, if an employee spends the majority of their time using a specific piece of equipment, it could be considered an essential function.  
  • The consequences of not requiring the employee to perform a function 
  • Collective bargaining agreements

Writing job functions with essential functions

If your current job descriptions aren’t bringing in the quality candidates your company is looking for, follow these guidelines to learn how to write a compelling and compliant job description.

  • Attention-getting job title: For example, instead of just writing “Executive Assistant,” try something more attention-grabbing like “Executive Assistant to Award-Winning Marketing Team.”
  • Background: In the fast-paced, real-world of recruiting top talent, the more company background you can provide in your job description, the better your chances are of receiving the top-talent applicants you’re looking for.
  • Role requirements: It’s a common mistake to fail in differentiating between true requirements of a role and “nice to have” preferences. Be sure you are clear on the needs and wants to avoid deterring potential top-talent. 
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