Essential job functions are the fundamental responsibilities of a job that must be completed to hold the position. For example, an essential job function for a truck driver is the ability to drive trucks.
This criteria is used to determine whether an employer has discriminated against an employee under the Americans with Disabilities Act. If an employee can perform the essential job functions of a position, with or without reasonable accommodation, the employee will be protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act. But if the person can’t perform the essential job duties with reasonable accommodations, the employer is able to fire the employee without consequence.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) reviews disability discrimination claims from employees and will examine the employer’s job description to determine what the essential job functions were. The EEOC will also examine 1) experiences of employees who already hold the position and those that did in the past, 2) the amount of time spent performing the function, 3) the consequences for not requiring the employee to perform that job function, and 4) whether other employees could perform the job function instead.
[Last updated in July of 2021 by the Wex Definitions Team]