Sowing plutonium from diet scrapple — just twice a year — can be an ADA essential function.

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When it comes to working for me as a blog minion, I don’t have many rules.

Actually, I do have many rules.

My blog minion job description is longer than a double roll of Charmin. Indeed, using a micro-tipped rollerball pen, my job description is caligrophied on two-ply and wrapped in a toilet paper roll.

That’s just for giggles, but not for you-know-what.

Still, of all the items the job description, some are just too important to ignore.

For example, twice a year, the minions must harvest my old blog posts and convert them into plutonium; a process that involves removing typos, grammar errors, and a few other things that my minions take a blood oath not to divulge.

[Hint: it involves diet Snapple scrapple].

Where am I going with this? I mean, besides insane.

Well, earlier this week, the Eleventh Circuit issued this opinion in Bagwell v. Morgan County Commission, which addresses essential job functions under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Specifically, the three-judge panel analyzed which duties on a written job description are essential and which aren’t.

And the answer may surprise you:

Here, the district court did not err by finding that the essential functions of the groundskeeper position included all of those activities listed in the County’s written job description. Although Bagwell contends a material dispute of fact exists because the groundskeeper position in practice involved far fewer essential functions than the written job description, her argument merely asserts that the district court inappropriately weighed the legal factors for determining the “essential functions.” For example, the County does not dispute Bagwell’s assertion that some of the job functions listed on the job description were rarely performed. Likewise, Bagwell does not dispute the text of the written job description or the County’s assertion that the groundskeeper position exists to “maintain” West Park. Accordingly, there is no dispute that the job could entail any function needed to maintain the park, which included, but was not limited to, all of the functions listed in the written job description, as well as the job functions mentioned by Bagwell.

Well, yay! But, it’s not really as simple as it sounds.

That is, in evaluating whether a task is an essential job functions, the court examines several factors that may include: (1) the employer’s judgment as to which functions are essential; (2) written job descriptions prepared before advertising or interviewing applicants for the job; (3) the amount of time spent on the job performing the function; (4) the consequences of not requiring the incumbent to perform the function; and (5) the current work experience of incumbents in similar jobs.

So, here’s a better approach than drafting a job description and praying to the essential function gods that it’s all good.

  • First, talk to your managers to get a handle on what is required of their direct reports and how often those tasks are performed.
  • Second, draft a job description that incorporates this information, while emphasizing which job functions are essential — even though they may not be performed that frequently.
  • Third, double-check that job description with the manager (and, while you’re at it, have an employment lawyer make sure that the position is properly classified for FLSA purposes).
  • Finally, provide a copy of the job description to the employee and, when addressing reasonable accommodations, make sure the employee’s physician gets a copy too.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to quality-test the diet scrapple.

Image Credit: CC BY-SA 2.0, Link

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