Your job descriptions may be more important than you think, and what better time to review and update them than the start of the new year? In this blog, we discuss why job descriptions are important and the things to consider when updating them.
Job descriptions help set employee expectations for their responsibilities. So, as the responsibilities of employees evolve with your business, your job descriptions may need some updating. Moreover, revising your job descriptions to accurately reflect the work being done and the true responsibilities of the job may help you spot gaps, or too much overlap, in your workforce.
On top of that, job descriptions also have legal implications. One of the most notable of these legal implications is under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Under the ADA, employers must give reasonable accommodations (if requested) to employees with disabilities, and an accommodation is inherently unreasonable if it excuses an employee from performing their essential job functions. Employees may bring suit and allege that you failed to provide a reasonable accommodation, and a common response is that an accommodation would have excused the employee from performing an essential function of his or her. To settle this argument, courts often look to the employee’s job description when deciding what the employee’s essential job functions are. Therefore, if a job function is essential to the position, be sure to include it in your job description. Otherwise, it may be difficult to make the argument that the job function was in fact essential.
Other discrimination laws also bring job descriptions into play. Discrimination laws prohibit you from taking any action, such as firing or refusing to hire any employee or prospective employee for a variety of reasons, including sex (Title VII), race (same), age (ADEA), disability (ADA), and others. However, these laws do not require you to keep someone who can’t complete their job duties or hire someone who isn’t qualified for the job. So, it is important that your job descriptions accurately reflect the duties of the job and its basic qualifications, and even preferences. This will help you back up your reason for letting an employee go who isn’t fulfilling their responsibilities or for not hiring an unqualified applicant.
Another example is the FLSA. The FLSA sets wage and hour requirements and, importantly, distinguishes greatly between exempt (often salaried) and nonexempt (often hourly) employees. Whether an employee is FLSA “exempt” depends on the type of work they do, such as managing other employees or engaging in executive-level work. Job descriptions should accurately reflect the work being done in order to help determine whether an employee is exempt or nonexempt.
These are just a few examples of why keeping accurate and updated job descriptions is important. As we begin the new year, take the time to review your job descriptions, reflect on what the responsibilities of those positions really are, and update the job descriptions accordingly. You could be saving yourself a legal headache!