The placement of a single bullet in a University’s job description cost it $250,000 under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Job descriptions, under the ADA, can be the “evidence” that courts use to rule in a lawsuit.

This is a cautionary tale for employers, especially those who consider rotating work schedule to be an essential function of any of their jobs.

The case involved Stanley Snead, a campus police officer at the Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University from May 2005 to December of 2013.

In August of 2013, the department changes its officers’ work schedules. Officers had previously been required to work 8-hour shifts but the new schedule included 12-hour shifts.

Officer Snead tried the 12-hour shifts but experienced high blood pressure. Snead sued the University under the ADA claiming that the University failed to let him continue to work 8-hour shifts.

The University claimed that the 12-hour shift was an “essential function” of the job.

The courts looked at the original job description for Snead’s role.

The job description did include mention of the 12-hour shift in its “Working Hours” section. To be compliant with the ADA, job descriptions must list such an essential function in an “Essential Function” section.

Interestingly, the University did have an Essential Function section in its job description — it just didn’t include the 12-hour shift.

When writing job descriptions, the ADA law states that a  job function is “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.”

Under the ADA laws, you the employer are never required to eliminate what’s called an “Essential Function” of the job to reasonably accommodate an applicant with a disability.

Examples of essential functions in job descriptions:

  • A business development person working with China might need to “speak fluent Mandarin”
  • A nurse might need to “work overnight shifts”
  • A mechanic might need to “work with tools on vehicles lifted above their head”
  • A firefighter might be required to “carry an unconscious adult”
  • A loader might need to “be able to move 50 pound packages from truck to loading dock”
  • A delivery person might need to “ascend flights of stairs of homes and businesses”
  • A police officer might “need to work 12 hour shifts” X

You might find 10 Tips for Recruiting People with Disabilities in Job Descriptions useful. And, for more tips on writing job descriptions, check out How to Write a Job Description — Best Practices & Examples.

Why I wrote this?

Ongig is on a mission to transform your job descriptions through text and visuals. Our Text Analyzer job description software helps you write job descriptions that avoid bias towards ability, gender, race, age and beyond. We’ll even help you write an ADA-compliant template for your job description.

Life’s short. Let’s keep you out of lawsuits! Click Request Demo if you’d like to do a “Discovery” call meeting with us.

by in Writing Job Descriptions