In identifying an essential function to determine if an individual with a disability is qualified, the employer should focus on the purpose of the function and the result to be accomplished, rather than the manner in which the function presently is performed. An individual with a disability may be qualified to perform the function if an accommodation would enable this person to perform the job in a different way, and the accommodation does not impose an undue hardship. Although it may be essential that a function be performed, frequently it is not essential that it be performed in a particular way (EEOC, 1992).
Whether to use job descriptions usually depends upon a number of factors, including employer preferences and resources. Employers should look at relevant rules and regulations, the size and type of organization and industry, hiring practices, and current employees.
According to Torrington, a job description is usually developed by conducting a job analysis, which includes examining the tasks and sequences of tasks necessary to perform the job. The analysis considers the areas of knowledge and skills needed for the job. A job usually includes several roles. According to Hall, the job description might be broadened to form a person specification or may be known as "terms of reference". The person/job specification can be presented as a stand-alone document, but in practice it is usually included within the job description. A job description is often used by employers in the recruitment process.
Employers should develop job descriptions that clearly define the essential functions of every job before advertising the job or interviewing applicants. A job description should have clear, concise, non-technical language, and avoid unnecessary words. The job description should focus on words that have a single meaning with detailed explanations for words that may be interpreted differently. Each sentence should begin with an active verb and use the present tense. Examples of job functions should be provided. The desired outcome of the work should be described, rather than one method for accomplishing that outcome. For example, instead of "writes down notes during meetings" put "records notes during weekly meetings." Writers should avoid using gender-specific language, jargon, technical language, proprietary names (Xerox), and ambiguity.
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