What makes a part of a staffer’s job an “essential function”? That’s the question a court answered recently after a worker claimed he was fired for being unable to perform a part of his job that he was almost never required to do.
Jeffrey Knutson was a location general manager for a frozen food delivery service.
One of his job requirements was to meet Department of Transportation (DOT) eligibility requirements and be available to drive a delivery truck.
That said, in his two years on the job, Knutson very rarely got behind the wheel as part of his job.
Then, in 2008, he suffered a penetrating eye injury.
Not the worker’s call: Court
Knutson’s doctor refused to mark him as “medically examined and certified” for the driving part of his job. The firm gave Knutson 30 days to find a non-DOT-qualified job at the firm. When he didn’t, he was fired.
Then he sued, claiming the company failed to accommodate his disability. Knutson argued that driving a delivery truck wasn’t an essential function of his job.
The court disagreed: Knutson’s personal experience had no bearing on what was an essential function.
Instead, it’s “the written job description, the employer’s judgment and the experience and expectations” of managers that establish essential functions, according to the court.
The case is Knutson v. Schwan’s Home Service, Inc.