Disability Law Index - Employment: Essential Functions


29 C.F.R. 1630.2(n) - Essential functions

(1) In general - The term essential functions means the fundamental job duties of the employment position the individual with a disability holds or desires. The term essential functions does not include the marginal functions of the position.

(2) A job function may be considered essential for any of several reasons, including but not limited to the following:

(i) The function may be essential because the reason the position exists is to perform that function;

(ii) The function may be essential because of the limited number of employees available among whom the performance of that job function can be distributed; and/or

(iii) The function may be highly specialized so that the incumbent in the position is hired for his or her expertise or ability to perform the particular function.

(3) Evidence of whether a particular function is essential includes, but is not limited to:

(i) The employer's judgment as to which functions are essential;
(ii) Written job descriptions prepared before advertising or interviewing applicants for the job;
(iii) The amount of time spent on the job performing the function;
(iv) The consequences of not requiring the incumbent to perform the function;
(v) The terms of a collective bargaining agreement;
(vi) The work experience of past incumbents in the job; and/or
(vii) The current work experience of incumbents in similar jobs.

Case Law:

Hennagir v. Utah Dept. of Corrections, __ F.3d __ (10th Cir. September 10, 2009).

  • A job function that is rarely required in the normal course of an employee's duties may nonetheless be an essential job function.
  • When the potential consequences of employing an individual who is unable to perform the function are sufficiently severe, such a function may be deemed essential.
  • It is unreasonable for an employee to demand identical job duties less the disputed essential job requirement, regardless of the label given to the proposed accommodation.
  • The essential function inquiry is not conducted as of an individual's hire date. The ADA does not limit an employer's ability to establish or change the content, nature, or functions of a job.