Hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving! This post is a momentous one so to speak. It is my 200th blog entry (about four years). There is absolutely no way I could have done this without the loyal readers of this blog. Thank you so much!!!!!!! As much as I love to write, writing a blog isn’t always easy. It is the readers of this blog have made it worthwhile and keep me doing it week after week (of course, the ancillary benefit of clients generated doesn’t hurt either:-)
The big newspaper in Atlanta Georgia is the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. On Sundays, they have a section called AJC Jobs. This Sunday, their piece was called, “physical aspects of jobs pose barriers.” The subtitle was, “disabled who want to work may need accommodations.” The article was by a Diane Stafford of the Kansas City Star. It was an interesting article. Here is what I want to focus on. In the article, she says that the following is a real example of the required duties for an accounting job:
“While performing the duties of this job, the employee is regularly required to walk, talk, see and hear. General level of physical activity would be defined as sedentary. The employee is occasionally required to stand and frequently required to sit; use hands to finger, handle, or feel; reach with hands and arms. Some movements of the hands, arms and wrists may involve repetitive motion. Specific vision abilities required by this include close vision, distance vision, color vision, depth perception and ability to adjust focus.”
My thoughts on this job description are as follows:
1. This is an accounting job!
2. This is an accounting job! (I think I said that:-)
3. The employer is confusing major life activities with essential functions of the job. As far back as the first edition of my book, I talked about how this is not something you want to do. What are the essential functions of accounting? Being able to process information? Being able to communicate information? Understanding accounting principles? Utilizing certain software associated with accounting? Interacting with others? Etc. I fail to understand how any of these “essential functions,” listed in the article have anything to do with carrying out the job’s fundamental purposes. It shouldn’t matter the means (in this case, the major life activities utilized by that person), that the person accomplishes the job’s essential purposes, just that he or she gets it accomplished.
4. The job description as written clearly screens out persons with disabilities and is in probable violation of 42 U.S.C. § 12112(b)(6). Hope this particular company has budgeted for litigation.
5. Readers of this blog entry may be interested in this blog of mine as well, which discusses how not to defend essential functions of the job.
6. I don’t see how these requirements could be job-related or consistent with business necessity either (what the employer would have to show in order to be allowed to screen out persons with disabilities under 42 U.S.C. § 12112(b)(6)). See this blog entry for example.
7. When reviewing job descriptions, make sure they are accurate, reflect the realities on the ground, and do not screen out persons with disabilities. If you are going to use major life activities as essential job functions, make sure you absolutely have no choice before doing that. See if you can’t rephrase it some way. If you do have no choice, make sure you are able to show that you have to do that because it was job-related and consistent with business necessity.
8. While we are on the subject of confusing essential functions with other things, another thing I have seen over the years, is confusing essential functions of the job with tasks. Don’t do that either. For example, data entry is an essential function but ten key is not.