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).
The process of developing job descriptions often sheds light on the nature of a job as well as suggests that there are alternative methods of performing essential job tasks. Job analysis may help encourage management and staff to work together in identifying and streamlining the essential and marginal job functions.
Properly written job position descriptions are often the only document that totally define what a role is, what skills are required to perform it, and where the role fits in an organization. This makes it simple to identify candidates that are a good fit for the role and also to hold candidates accountable if they are not performing essential duties that are required in the role.
Job functions should be qualified whenever possible and the desired outcome of the work should be described, rather than the method for accomplishing that outcome. For example, instead of saying, “she files folders” write that “the clerk files folders alphabetically based on category." Employers should let individuals read their job descriptions, voice any concerns, and sign their descriptions. Job descriptions should be accurate. To ensure accuracy, combine the input of many managers and employees.
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