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).
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.
When detailing qualifications on job descriptions, employers typically require certain knowledge, skills, aptitude, training, and previous experience. Employers should remember that these qualifications might be gained in a number of ways. For example, knowledge may be gained through education, training, or experience. In addition, other requirements, such as the possession of a driver’s license could be considered discriminatory. For example, it may be necessary to specify that an individual must be "available to attend evening meetings throughout the community" and "possess a driver’s license” but an employer should distinguish between need and convenience and consider any discriminatory effects. An employee with a disability may be able to attend a meeting via teleconference or access public transportation to attend the meeting on site.
Developing job descriptions is an issue that many employers deliberate. Initially, some employers may be daunted by what they perceive to be a lengthy and complicated process. Yet, with constructive tools such as job analysis, sample job descriptions, and on-line resources like Career Onestop from the U.S. Department of Labor, informed employers are able to obtain valuable information about their organizations. This publication addresses relevant background information, which includes the role of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) in developing job descriptions, how to formulate job descriptions, special features of Career Onestop that assist with the development process, and relationship to the accommodation process.
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