One thing is for sure, the interactive process is a bear that everyone hates to wrestle. Without the right tools that bear will beat you every time. And while you don’t need a truck load of tools to deal with the bear, you certainly must have one single multi-purpose tool and that tool is….
The job description
Yep, a job description. Plain and simple. It’s the Ka-Bar of the interactive process. The ultimate survival tool. Unfortunately, there are a lot of knockoffs out there. So let’s look at a few of the flaws in job descriptions that will get you pinned by the bear if you use a knockoff.
An old job description is worse than no job description. Let me say that again, an old job description is worse than no job description. The reason, jobs evolve over time. Technology, facility upgrades, expansion, etc. If your job description was written 15 years ago, how accurately do you think it reflects the current position? And therein lies the problem. You cannot be interactive about a job that no longer truly exists.
If the supervisor has never seen the job description, well then, you are certainly doing something wrong. But what if the supervisor doesn’t enforce or hold employees accountable to the job description. This is a common issue that is uncovered during the interactive process. You learn that employee X was not required to fulfill the essential functions of the job, thereby making those essential functions marginal functions.
We all love “other duties as assigned.” Who wouldn’t? There is a big difference between essential and marginal job functions (more on that later), but keeping your essential functions narrowly defined helps the accommodation process. You can measure restrictions against essentials. You can’t do that with marginals. So, get narrowly focused and make essential truly mean essential.