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EMPLOYMENT LAW GUIDE: - page 99 / 134





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Essential Functions: The law recognizes that jobs may have many functions. Some parts of the job are essential and some are not. If you can do the essential functions of a job, you cannot be discriminated against because of your disability. For example, a person who has a disability applies for a job as one of a group of ten mail clerks for a large company. Because of his/her disability s/he does not drive. The main functions of the mail clerk job are sorting and distributing incoming mail to various departments and processing outgoing mail. Sometimes one of the mail clerks is asked to perform miscellaneous tasks which involve driving, such as picking up supplies. Driving would probably not be an essential function of the job of mail clerk and so it would be illegal to refuse to hire the applicant because his/her disability prevented him/her from driving.

Reasonable Accommodation: An employer must make reasonable accommodations to allow a disabled person to work. Reasonable accommodations may include changes in the physical work area such as installing a ramp or providing adaptive equipment such as an accessible telephone (such as a TTD), making changes in job requirements such as assigning certain non-essential job functions to another employee, allowing an employee to perform a job in a different way (for example, sitting down instead of standing up), or making changes in work schedules to allow employees to take periodic rests or keep medical appointments. An employer may require a person who needs a reasonable accommodation to provide documentation of her/his disability and the need for the reasonable accommodation. Although an employer does not necessarily have to provide the exact accommodation requested, failure to provide a reasonable accommodation may violate the law.

Undue Hardship: An employer does not have to provide an accommodation if it would cause undue hardship. Some of the factors to be considered in determining undue hardship are: the nature and cost of the accommodation needed; the overall size and resources of the employers business; the number of employees; the number and type of facilities, and the size of budget; and the composition and structure of the employers work force.

Reasonable Standards: An employer is permitted to establish reasonable qualification standards for applicants and employees. Examples of such qualification standards are the ability to type 60 words a minute, a Masters degree in Library Science, or at least 2 years of nursing experience. An employer is permitted to reject a person with a disability who is unable to meet these qualification standards with reasonable accommodation unless the qualification standards are an excuse for illegal discrimination.

Employment Tests

Employers are permitted to test applicants and employees to make sure that they can perform essential job functions, but they must give the test in a way that does not unfairly discriminate against a person because of his or her disability. For example, a person with a speech impediment who is applying for a clerical position may not perform well on a test which requires oral responses. However, if the job does not require clear speech, another type


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