The Importance of Including Essential Job Demands in Job Descriptions
There are several benefits associated with including the essential physical job demands on job descriptions. This session at WCI’s 2018 Workers’ Compensation Educational Conference provided tips to correctly craft essential job demands.
The panel included:
- Carrie Manges, PTA, Regional Work Comp Specialist, CORA Physical Therapy
- Jaime Sigurdsson, CEAS, Director of Workers’ Compensation, CORA Physical Therapy
- Katherine Jones, Human Resources Generalist, City of Winter Park
By distinguishing the essential versus marginal functions, and determining the physical demand requirements for both weight and position, the employer can properly match the worker to the job and prevent injuries due to inability to perform the required physical demands.
There are six major components of job descriptions:
- Essential job functions
- Knowledge and critical skills
- Physical demands
- Environmental factors
- Roles of ADA and other federal laws
- Any explanatory information that may be necessary to clarify job duties and responsibilities
It is important to learn how to maneuver within the expectations and guidelines of the ADA and EEOC to prevent exposure to a discrimination claim. You cannot legally ask if someone has a disability, however, you can ask a person if they are able to perform the essential functions of a position, even with a reasonable accommodation. If the individual cannot perform the essential functions, you do not have to hire them.
A job function consists of what is done (action verb) to whom or what, why (to product what) and how (using what). Essential job functions are the fundamental, crucial job duties performed in a position. The position exists to perform that function. There are a limited amount of employees who can perform that function. The function is highly-specialized and the employee that is hired has special expertise or ability. Do not include marginal functions that are extra or incidental duties.
Why is is important to identify essential job functions? Employers want to avoid inconsistent or unfair employment decisions by defining positions so that the employee knows what is expected of him or her. An employer is not required to reallocate the essential functions of a job as a reasonable accommodation.
Avoid common mistakes by separating the function from the method. An essential function is a completed task, not how the task is completed. Use result-oriented language (i.e. use “relocate” instead of “lift”).
There are certain questions you can ask to determine essential versus marginal functions. If the answer is ‘yes’, it is an essential function.
- Is the function a primary reason that the position was established?
- Would removing the function fundamentally change the position or eliminate the need for it?
- Is transferring the function impossible due to lack of available employees?
- Are there severe consequences if the position is not required to perform the fun action?
- Does the function require specialized expertise?
According to ADA guidelines, qualitative and quantitative standards for essential functions (i.e. lifting, climbing) are permissible as long as they are actually necessary and required for a particular position, however, you may have to offer legitimate, non-discriminatory reason for selection of standard. It is important to list the activity, frequency and, if applicable, strength guidelines. This will help get the right person for the job. For instance, someone may be a great utility worker, but can they lift the manhole cover? This also helps with workers’ compensation. For instance, a worker may only have to lift 100 pounds once a year, but without listing the frequency, a doctor could keep them on workers’ comp because they can not lift 100 pounds today.