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May 09, 2011
Examples of 'Essential Functions' for Job Descriptions

If individuals who hold the position are actually required to perform a function, then under the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) the function may be considered essential.

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What happens if the function is not performed? If the consequences of failure to perform the function are severe, then the function might be essential. For example, equipment might be ordered only once a week, but if it is not ordered, production comes to a standstill. Other examples:

  • An airline pilot spends only a few minutes of flight landing a plane, but landing the plane is an essential function because of the very serious consequences if the pilot could not perform this function.
  • A firefighter may only occasionally have to carry a heavy person from a burning building, but being able to perform this function would be essential to the firefighter's job.
  • A clerical worker may spend only a few minutes a day answering the telephones, but this could be an essential function if no one else is available to answer the phones at that time, and business calls would go unanswered.

Other factors that might be considered in determining whether a function is essential:

  • The employer's judgment of what duties are "essential." Ideally, these are reflected in a current job description
  • How the function is treated in documents, such as the job description and job advertisements, that are created before advertising or interviewing for the job
  • The amount of time spent performing the function
  • The terms of a collective bargaining agreement
  • The work experience of incumbents performing the same or similar jobs
  • Whether the performance evaluation includes the function

The above information comes from BLR's SmartJobs, which includes 700 job description samples, arranged by type of job. Learn more aboutSmartJobs


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