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How To Determine What Is A Reasonable Accommodation For My Job

What Are The "Essential Functions" Of Your Job?

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The definition of "essential functions" depends on the particular job you are hired to do.

According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC),  the federal agency responsible for enforcing the EEOC, following are some guidelines to help you determine what the "essential functions" of your job are:

  • Look at the job description. Although it only serves as a guide, it at least provides an idea of what your employer considers to be essential.
  • Is there a collective bargaining agreement that controls your job? If so, how does the agreement describe your job?
  • Make a list of all the various parts of your job. How much time per month is spent on each function?
  • What would happen if you don't perform a particular function?
  • What experiences have people who have worked the job in the past had?
    • Did they do each of the functions you do?
    • What happened if they didn't do the functions you can't do?
  • What are the experiences of people who are doing similar jobs at present? What parts of their job appear to be essential and which ones aren't?

A few examples may help you determine the essential functions of your job:

  • A secretary: The essential part of the job may be typing, filing and answering the phone. Getting your boss's coffee is not essential.
  • A warehouse-person: Driving a forklift may be the main (essential) function of the job. On the other hand, if most of your time is spent on the computer tracking supplies, and creating and mailing packages, and other employees drive forklifts almost full time, perhaps driving the forklift is not essential to your job.
  • A chemist: If you are a chemist, and only about 5% of your job involves communicating with the public, you can perform the essential functions of your job if you can do your lab work, even if you can no longer communicate with the public.

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