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Claim your Basic Employee Rights, Issue 05
August 06, 2009


Employee Rights News You Can Use



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Date August 6, 2009

Issue #05



What is an essential job function?

Before we can answer that question, another question should be asked. What is a job description? It is critical to understand what job descriptions are because "essential" job functions are a component of them. An occupation, profession, trade, career or work is commonly called a job. That "job" involves an assortment of duties and tasks assigned to the employee to perform. Duties can be as simple as opening a door or more complex, such as designing websites. Employers will also refer to duties as job functions.

Businesses decide what job descriptions are based on a breakdown of all the tasks or duties associated with it to accomplish a goal. Job descriptions also contain parts dealing with issues like compensation, work schedule, etc. I'll talk more about that in another article ;0) Well that was the simple version of job descriptions now let's deal with "essential job functions".

Looking at a job description for employment can be a fascinating read. This is especially true when it gets to the essential functions of the job section. But, is the function really "essential"? Okay, now we need to know what "essential" means. Doing the particular task is why the job exists. For example, the job description for “call center customer service 1” has an essential function requirement to answer customer questions and address complaints by telephone. The reason the job exists is to use the telephone thus it's essential.

Other ways to determine if a job function is "essential" involve;

  • what happens if the function doesn't get done
  • any specific job skills or training needed
  • how many employees can complete the task
  • how much time does it take to perform the job function

Job seekers and employees should also be aware that some employers may act in "bad faith". They may want to deny you equitable access to employment, training, promotions, compensation and more, by calling a duty "essential" when it really isn't. Here are some of the things to look for;

  1. Are there co-workers with the same job description doing the "essential" job function?
  2. Did the employee previously in the same position perform the "essential" task or tasks as you are directed to?

If the answer to these two questions is no, then you may the victim of some form of workplace discrimination.

Whether a specific job function is "essential" is extremely important if your employer qualifies under the (ADA) Americans with Disabilities Act. Public and private employers are required to provide a reasonable accommodation for employees with physical or mental disabilities if they are able to perform the "essential" job function. For example, an essential function on a job description may say, "Must be able to lift 75 lb. crates". However, the true expected outcome of the task is to have 75 lb. crates moved from one place to another.

An employee such as myself with a back impairment could perform that "essential function" with a reasonable accommodation like hand trucks or a cart. Usually if a job function is not "essential" it is "marginal". What is the definition of "marginal"?

  • The job doesn't require the function to exist.
  • If the function isn't performed the job still exists.

The job function could be "marginal" if;

  • it doesn't require much time to get done
  • just about any employee could do it because it doesn't take any special skill or knowledge
  • there is little or no impact if the job function doesn't happen
  • the most important aspects of the job remain the same if the task is not performed

The bottom line for any career seeker and employee is to learn their basic employee rights BEFORE SEEKING and ACCEPTING employment...

...and learn and understand what job descriptions say and more importantly what they don't say. As the job market grows more competitive, knowing how to read job descriptions will be "essential", sorry for the pun ;0) Stay tuned for future articles on job descriptions.

All the Best,



Top Tips!



What part of FMLA law does your employer hate most and hope you know nothing about? Intermittent FMLA! Explained it says "unforeseeable intermittent leave". That means you can be 30 minutes late, or leave two hours early. Why? Under FMLA you can take time off because of a serious health condition which normally doesn't keep you from being able to work.

However, the condition comes and goes causing you not to be able to make it to work or finish a day. Some common conditions include diabetes, sickle cell anemia, migraine, etc. Here's another bombshell, FMLA says you can take up to 48 hours to tell your employer you want the time off counted as FMLA leave! How about being 4 hours late Wednesday, off Thursday and tell your manager late Friday morning to count it as intermittent FMLA leave!

To qualify as "unforeseen intermittent" FMLA leave your employer will require a medical certification from your doctor. Remember, you always have 48 hours to inform your employer to count your time taken as FMLA leave. Most job applicants and employees know very little about "intermittent" FMLA leave, that's one reason I have a page dedicated to it on my website.

The Family Medical Leave Act provides so many great benefits for employees they no nothing about. Please if you or anyone you know has health issues and is trying to keep a job, forward this eNewsletter or this link to my Intermittent FMLA page;


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Your Basic Employee Rights eNews is published the first week of the month, 12 weeks per year. From time to time we will publish special features that affect employees in the workplace.



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Written by Yancey Thomas Jr.


(c)copyright 2009


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