Your People Experts

ADA Compliant Job Descriptions

While there is no regulation that requires employers to provide job descriptions, it is in an employer’s best interest to outline the essential functions of a position in order to demonstrate what the responsibilities are and to assess whether or not an applicant can perform the essential functions of the job.

When you are advertising a position, listing the job description will provide an applicant with an idea of what will be required of the individual they are looking for to fill the position. During the interview stage, there are certain questions you cannot ask an applicant and that includes whether or not they have a disability. However, once you review the job description with them, you can ask if they can perform the essential functions of the position. Job descriptions also provide an employer with documentation in the event a charge is brought against them for discrimination or refusing to provide a reasonable accommodation.

One issue that employers often run into when creating a job description is outlining the “essential functions” of the position.

According to the EEOC…

“Essential functions are the basic job duties that an employee must be able to perform, with or without reasonable accommodation. You should carefully examine each job to determine which functions or tasks are essential to performance. (This is particularly important before taking an employment action such as recruiting, advertising, hiring, promoting or firing).

Factors to consider in determining if a function is essential include:

  • whether the reason the position exists is to perform that function,
  • the number of other employees available to perform the function or among whom the performance of the function can be distributed,
  • the degree of expertise or skill required to perform the function.

Your judgment as to which functions are essential, and a written job description prepared before advertising or interviewing for a job will be considered by EEOC as evidence of essential functions. Other kinds of evidence that EEOC will consider include:

  • the actual work experience of present or past employees in the job,
  • the time spent performing a function,
  • the consequences of not requiring that an employee perform a function, and
  • the terms of a collective bargaining agreement.

An employer does not have to hire an individual if they are unable to perform all of the essential functions of the job, even with reasonable accommodation. However, an employer cannot reject an applicant only because the disability prevents you from performing minor duties that are not essential to the job. Example: Wei is deaf and applies for a file clerk position. The essential functions for this job are to file and retrieve written materials. While the job description states that the clerk must also answer the phone, in practice the clerk rarely does this because other employees have responsibility for this duty. The employer cannot reject Wei solely because she is unable to answer the phone since that is not an essential part of performing this job.”

What is included in a job description?

A good job description should include the following information:

  • Job Title – include level e.g., Accountant I
  • Salary – may be actual salary, but preferably a pay grade or range
  • Supervisor/Department – title of supervisor or department (try not to use individual names)
  • Hours of work – include statement about overtime and frequency
  • Brief summary of the position – what purpose of the position is or does
  • Essential Functions – list the main functions of the position (90 to 95 percent of associated tasks); list tasks in order of importance or time required (focus more on what needs to be done rather on how it need to done)
  • Special or particular requirements – include physical demands (heavy lifting, prolonged standing, travel, etc.) and soft skills (communication, problem solving, team player, etc.)
  • Qualifications – necessary education, experience or skills required

Writing the description
Try to use non-technical language that can be easily understood by all applicants and more accurately describe the requirements of the job.

Examples:

  • if writing about a position that requires excessive standing or sitting, use the term “stationary position” with a description that states, “Must be able to stand or sit for prolonged periods (50% of the time).”
  • if writing about a position that requires lifting of 10+ pounds, include all motions involved with the lifting, such as “Must be able to lift 10+ pounds (list heights and distance if applicable) and load onto shelves.”
  • if working outdoors, write about the work environment as “constant exposure to outside elements, e.g., heat or cold.”

Finally, it is always good to include a disclaimer in your description to account for the “other duties as assigned” clause and to let applicants and employees know that the description is subject to change or modification.

Sample disclaimers:

  • This is not necessarily an all-inclusive list of job-related responsibilities, duties, skills, efforts, requirements or working conditions. While this is intended to be an accurate reflection of the current job, management reserves the right to revise the job or to require that other or different tasks be performed as assigned.
  • All job requirements are subject to possible revision to reflect changes in the position requirements or to reasonably accommodate individuals with disabilities. Some requirements may exclude individuals who pose a threat or risk to the health and safety of themselves or other employees. This job description in no way states or implies that these are the only duties to which will be required in this position. Employees will be required to follow other job-related duties as requested by their supervisor/manager (within guidelines and compliance with Federal and State Laws). Continued employment remains on an “at-will” basis.

EAF members have access to our Job Description Software available through our association with CCH HR Compliance Library. This software allows members to write ADA compliant job descriptions that can be modified to suit the qualifications required of their positions. Sample descriptions are available and upon completion, the program will provide a sample ADA advertisement for the description created. Members LOGIN here to check it out.


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Disclaimer

EAF provides information about current developments in labor and employment law. This information is intended for educational purposes only and should not be considered legal advice. Questions requiring legal advice should be addressed to the attorney of your choice. EAF members may be able to obtain a legal interpretation through our FREE Legal Hotline.