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What is an "essential function" for ADA claims in Oklahoma?

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a federal statute designed to protect people in Oklahoma and elsewhere from discrimination based on physical or mental impairments. It prohibits employers from discriminating or taking adverse action against an employee or prospective employee based on his or her status as a disabled person.

In terms of the hiring process, however, the ADA does not require an employer to hire a disabled candidate over other qualified applicants in all circumstances. In fact, to be protected by the ADA, the prospective employee must meet the educational, experience or vocational requirements required by the employer for the position, as well as be able to carry out the job's essential functions whether provided with reasonable accommodation or not. But what will the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission consider an "essential function" of a position?

According to the Oklahoma Office of Disability Concerns, there are a few factors that will determine whether the functions designated essential by the employer will meet the EEOC's standards. One of these factors is whether the function is the reason the position exists in the first place. Also, the commission will look at the amount of experience and expertise required to perform the function, and how many other employees are available to do it or to whom the function can be distributed. The employer's judgment as to these factors will be considered as evidence by the EEOC. The commission can also look at any collective bargaining agreements that might be in place, any consequences when workers do not perform the function, the time it takes to perform the function, and the experience of other employees, past or present, who perform the function.

Whether or not a given task is an essential function of the position for purposes of the ADA can be a complicated issue. If you think you may have been discriminated against because of a disability you may want to think about talking with an Oklahoma employment attorney.

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