Essential elements of a job

It is important in identifying BFORs to differentiate between tasks or skills that appear to be essential, or are employer preferences, as opposed to those that are essential. While it’s not always possible for someone to perform certain tasks in non-traditional ways, it is important to clearly define what the actual task is so that the appropriate accommodation can be identified.


  1. A job requires that a person is able to move plywood from one area of the storeroom to another. Traditionally, this may have been done by a worker picking up the plywood and manually moving it to the new location. While it may appear that the essential task is to be able to pickup and manually move the object, the actual essential task is to move it. A scissor lift or other device could be used to allow someone to perform the essential task in question.
  2. In an office, the work might involve computer operation and the essential task might appear to be the ability to use a keyboard. In fact, the essential task is to operate the computer and voice recognition software would allow a worker without full use of their hands to complete this task.
  3. Workers are required to work in an older building that does not have good air circulation and ventilation. There have been problems with mold. Most workers must work in cubicles. If a worker has an environmental-related disability and cannot work in that workplace, then there should be a review of the workplace site to determine if changes can be made so that the worker can continue to work at the worksite (i.e. new ventilation systems; closed cubicle; no-scent policy, scent-free products are used at the workplace, etc.). After exhausting the accommodations available at the worksite, alternative worksites may need to be considered.
  4. At a workplace, workers may be required to work on a rotation of shifts every two weeks because the workplace operates 24 hours a day. For some workers with family responsibilities such as childcare, rotational shift work and/or strict hours of work may not be a viable option due to the worker’s specific circumstances. Therefore, employers need to take into account flexible hours of work and the ability of workers to do shift work.
  5. Workers may be required to wear a specific uniform. However, some workers, due to their religious beliefs, may not be able to abide by the uniform requirements (e.g. they wear certain head attire which does not allow them to wear the required workplace head attire). There are alternative ways to ensure that the uniform tradition is upheld (i.e. specialized head attire that still meets the key components of the uniform). In addition, if there is little health and safety risk to others, then the degree of risk for the individual may be examined.


November 6, 2019