How to Write Inclusive Job Descriptions

READ THIS: How to write an inclusive job description.

STEP 1: UNDERSTAND ESSENTIAL JOB FUNCTIONS The essential functions of a job are not synonymous with all the functions of that job. A disabled person’s inability to perform a nonessential function is not a valid basis for disqualifying that person from employment. It is important that essential functions be defined and job descriptions be prepared before advertising or interviewing applicants. A description written later will not be considered as evidence of essential functions in the case of a discrimination charge.

Context: Every faculty job add at Holy Cross. a school in Notre Dame, IN, comes with the current statement:

Physical Demands

  • Repetitive movement of hands and fingers – typing and/or writing; occasional standing, walking, stooping, kneeling or crouching; reaching with hands and arms; talking and hearing.
  • Ability to lift and carry up to 20 lbs.

Despite the EEOC “NOTE,” this statement is arguably discriminatory. So I wrote about it for Pacific Standard. HCC spoke to me on the phone, asked for written questions, and then told me they had a lawyer at the ready. Instead of engaging with how they might pursue a more just work environment, they are ready, I fear, to fight.

But I hope they think hard about how a disabled applicant would read those phrases. And I hope they read the work I’ve done on this before. Because no professor in face is required to walk. And no professor in fact is required to hear. Hands and arms – optional. Normal, sure, but that’s the point. Norms discriminate. Moreover, writing an inclusive job description doesn’t seem that hard to me, but does require more than a cut/paste CYA mentality. And according to experts, this stuff won’t really CYA if there’s a job claim. 



I have written about this kind of clause before. It’s common – especially the “lift 20/25 pounds” clause – and needs to stop. I focus on Higher Ed, but it’s also an issue in the tech and non-profit worlds, to name two.

In the meantime, if you are disabled and wish to apply for a job with these clauses, you can contact the EEOC website and file a charge.

And if you see a job ad like this, you can either call them yourself and show them my work, or contact me and I’ll do it for you.

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