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What is the point of that "essential job functions" list?

A Denver resident who is applying for a position has probably noticed that, these days, most job descriptions include a list of "essential job functions." Usually, these are in addition to the actual description of the job and the list of required skills and experience.

Among other things, the reason employers put the list of essential job functions in a job description relates to disability discrimination. Under the federal Americans with Disabilities Act, or ADA, most Colorado employers are not allowed to discriminate against employees, or prospective employees, who have documented disabilities. Ordinarily, this means that an employer will need to accommodate a worker's disability if the employer can do so reasonably.

When it comes to essential job functions, however, an employer has a bit more leeway. An employer does not need to hire or even consider an applicant who cannot perform all essential job functions associated with the posted position.

However, workers in Colorado need to remember that an employer cannot make a job function "essential" just by labeling it so. Otherwise, an employer would be able to get around the purpose of the ADA simply by creating a laundry list of essential job functions.

There are a number of considerations involved, but, basically, an employer will need to show that an essential job function truly goes to the heart of a position. For instance, an employer would likely be able to disqualify an applicant for a truck driver position if the applicant physically could not drive. The bottom line is that a list of essential job functions is not per se an excuse for disability discrimination. Someone who feels that they were discriminated against based on a disability may still have legal options.

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