Agreed. I think we use the term "civil servant" (though they are not always civil, and rarely servile).
I've never used in day to day speak. I also read a lot of sci-fi and if I've seen the word I probably glossed over it and guessed it's meaning by context. Either way, the point is it has no place in Duolingo.
The only people I have heard use "functionary" in this sense in English, are those whose first language is French or Spanish.
There is a lot of anger and frustration in these posts, and it's all aimed towards a FREE language program. Did anyone watch the duolingo video? This is a free translation program. They are taking words and sentences from the internet, and having us translate them. The most common translations are the ones marked "correct". If you feel that another translation should be accepted as correct, the appropriate thing to do, would be to send a message to the duolingo team or click "report a problem". I am sure they would be happy to include another translation in the correct answers, and actually they have said as much. Again, this is a free program, and they are using algorithms to pull things from the internet and use them in our lessons - hence the reason it is free. So please, instead of ranting in the comments, just send duolingo a message so that we can all benefit from the changes.
several of the jobs mentioned could be done by either a male or female. Would the gender form change when either is specifically known?
it depends on the word, for example 'periodista' (-journalist) will always end in an 'a' but the el/la changes depending on the gender of the person in mind.