Essential Job Functions and Failure to Accommodate

August 1, 2015

The Fair Employment and Housing Act (“FEHA”) requires that an employer provide reasonable accommodations that allow an employee to perform the essential functions of their job. Gov. Code §12940(m). Where a failure to accommodate was a “substantial factor” in causing the exacerbation of a workplace injury, the employer may recover damages for that exacerbation. See Huffman v. Interstate Brands Corp. (2004) 121 Cal.App.4th 679, 698-699; Fussell v. Timec Company, Inc. (2014) 2014 WL 810917 at *9-13; Bagatti v. Department of Rehabilitation(2002) 97 Cal.App.4th 344, 356-358.

The FEHA expressly defines “essential functions” and provides guidance on what factors to look at to determine if a particular function is “essential.” These factors include:

The type of evidence of whether a particular function is essential includes but is not  limited to:

Gov. Code §12926(f). If the job would not be fundamentally altered if the asserted duty was eliminated, then the duty is not “essential.” Feliciano v. Rhode Island (1st Cir. 1998) 160 F.3d 780, 785. Similarly, if the end result is capable of being achieved by different means or methods, the particular method of doing so is not an “essential function.” Skerski v. Time Warner Cable (3rd Cir. 2001) 257 F.3d 273, 285.

As a part of the good faith interactive process required under FEHA, an employer is required to analyze job functions to establish the essential and nonessential job tasks. Taylor v. Phoenixville School Dist. (3d Cir. 1999) 184 F.3d 296. Employers must consult and cooperate with disabled employees to determine the most effective accommodations. Beck v. University of Wis. Bd. Of Regents (7th Cir. 1996) 75 F.3d 1130, 1135.

Author: Richard Hoyer
Category: Legal Procedure, Workplace Discrimination, Wrongful Termination
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