ADAAA Compliant Job Descriptions – What You Need to Know

Legal Defensibility, Functional Job Demands, and More

The ADA Amendments Act of 2008 (ADAAA), became effective on January 1, 2009, and made many significant changes to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 (1).  The ADAAA affords equal employment opportunity for individuals with a disability. Specifically, the ADAAA states it is unlawful to discriminate in employment, against a “qualified individual” with a disability (1).  Under the ADAAA, “disability with respect to an individual” is defined as “a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities of such individual, a record of such an impairment or being regarded as having an impairment (1).”  The ADAAA requires employers to provide a “qualified individual” with “reasonable accommodations” to support employment, unless these accommodations place “undue hardship” on the employer (1).  A qualified individual is defined in the act as, “an individual who, with or without reasonable accommodation, can perform the essential functions of the employment position that such individual holds or desires (1).”  The ADAAA requires employers to “make existing facilities used by employees readily accessible and usable by individuals (1).”  Reasonable accommodations under the ADAAA include, “job restructuring, part-time or modified work schedules, reassignment to a vacant position, acquisition or modification of equipment or devices, appropriate adjustment or modifications of examinations, training materials or policies, the provision of qualified readers or interpreters, and any other similar accommodations for individuals with disabilities (1).”  For employers, “undue hardship” is defined by the ADAAA as “an action requiring significant difficulty or expense (1).” Factors to consider when determining if “undue hardship” exists are (1):

  • the nature and cost of the of the accommodation;
  • the overall financial resources of the facility or facilities;
  • the overall financial resources of the covered entity;
  • the type of operation or operations of the covered entity.

The purpose of the ADAAA was to carry out the ADA’s objectives and reinstate the availability of a broad scope of protection for individuals with a disability (1).  The ADAAA does not specifically require employers to analyze ond document their jobs.  However, within the context of a “qualified individual” the ADAAA does provide “consideration to the employer’s judgement as to what functions of a job are essential (1).”  In addition, “if an employer has prepared a written description before advertising or interviewing applicants for the job, this description shall be considered evidence of the essential functions of the job (1).”  Therefore, employers that invest resources to analyze and document the essential functions of their jobs are better prepared to develop reasonable accommodations for their employees (current and future) as well as to defend a position of “undue hardship.”

Why Do I Even Need Job Descriptions?

The ADAAA requires an employer to fairly evaluate if an individual with disabilities can perform the essential job functions.  A high-quality job analysis report identifying the essential job functions allows the employer to ensure an accurate assessment of an individual’s ability to perform a job can be made.  Without proper documentation of the essential job demands, an employer may have a very difficult time fairly determining and documenting the decision not to hire or reasonably accommodate an individual with a disability. Therefore, the job analysis report becomes in effect, a necessity for employers that want to stay compliant with the ADAAA.

What Does Each Job Description Need to Contain?

High Quality ADAAA compliant job analysis should contain the following information:

  • Essential Job Functions (EJF). If job functions are not essential, they should be identified and listed as marginal.
  • Required physical demands for each essential job function. Physical demands include: lifting, carrying, pushing, pulling activities as well as the required positional demands of the job. Positional demands include but are not limited to: sitting, walking, reaching, stooping, kneeling, crawling, etc.
  • A job description or summary of the job requirements describing why the job exists and what activities are done by the employee in the job.
  • Job safety requirements including Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).
  • Position Identification information (job title, department, location, reporting relationship, etc.).
  • Work environment factors.

What’s My Best Bet?

The quality of a job analysis report can vary greatly depending on the tools used, and the expertise of the individuals capturing the data and documenting the jobs. Going it alone is not advisable. So hiring the best trained professionals to analyze the job demands is very important.

That said, there are several ways employers can choose to tackle job descriptions, each with pros and cons:

In-House Guesswork
Some employers turn to free online guidelines for creating job descriptions. These are very high level, and include basic steps and best practices in broad strokes. In some cases, smaller companies, with less physical job demands, decide that leveraging in-house resources to produce descriptions is adequate. It is not without risk – there is potential for a legal challenge regarding the validity of the job description – but certain companies choose to take this risk to realize short term cost savings.

Commodity Vendors
With more employers recognizing the importance of creating job descriptions including functional job demands – many vendors provide these services. For the most part, their value proposition is creating low cost job descriptions on an employer’s behalf. The problem is while some do possess ergonomic and job analysis know how, they use subjective, ad-hoc methods of measurement. And their personnel are not uniformly credentialed or properly trained. This means that ultimately, the job demands ‘documented’ in the descriptions are still based on assumptions and human judgement. As a result, there is no site-to-site reproducibility or consistency both of which leave the employer open to legal scrutiny.

Objective Physical Demands Analysis
Companies seeking the ultimate in employee productivity and legal defensibility elect to implement objective Physical Demands Analysis (PDA) to build their job descriptions. Choosing a partner like BTE gives you access to a team of job evaluation experts that analyze and document jobs for a living. And these experts perform a full Physical Demands Analysis – the industry gold standard for quantifying and documenting functional job demands. BTE evaluators are trained to perform job analysis according to proprietary, research-backed best practices, full time. Experienced in all types of industries, they build Physical Demands one at a time. Defining each Essential Job Function and measuring the respective physical demands required to perform the job tasks, clinicians utilize BTE’s unique digital measurement hardware and software ecosystem to accurately record each task. From recording the force required to push or pull a cart, to measuring the grip strength required to operate the controls of a crane. No task is too large or small, too simple or complex.

The BTE Difference for ADAAA Compliance

BTE clinical staff go on-site to your shop floor and use our technology to capture in real time – both peak and sustained forces during a task cycle, as well as the weights required to perform a task. The measurements are recorded directly into BTE software as multiple trials of each task are captured. This is a unique capability that no other vendor can provide. This objective technology combined with our clinicians’ s expertise strengthens the validity and objectivity of the data, and gives you strong decision support when determining whether an individual can perform the essential functions of a job.

Your BTE PDAs form the foundation of a safe, reliable, and optimal return-to-work program. From the moment they are measured at your jobsite, all your PDAs are stored in JobAble, our proprietary web-based job matching software. This program enables you to appropriately match any employee’s physical abilities to jobs within their capabilities or restrictions. Giving you a list of jobs to which an injured worker can safely return to work. This allows your employees to get back to work more quickly, into a safe, suitable job.

BTE’s clinical, technological, and operational expertise make our Physical Demands Analysis the premiere choice for job measurement and reporting. The ADA compliant PDAs completed by BTE are a valid and defensible platform for use in determining the essential functions an employee can safely perform given residual limitations associated with a disability or following an injury.  Your PDAs serve as objective documentation that assists in identifying tasks or jobs that each employee can perform.

Kelly Deeker OTD, OTR/L, CVE
Clinical Specialist / FCE Program Manager / JobAble Program Manager