Written By: Beth Bulger, Director of HR Services

    It is essential to maintain accurate job descriptions.  Job descriptions are important both from a legal and practical standpoint. From a practical point of view, job descriptions help the jobholder understand the responsibilities of the position and provide a sense of where the job fits into the company as a whole.

    job descriptionsFrom a legal perspective, job descriptions aid in the compliance of several laws. Job descriptions provide a basis for job evaluation, wage and salary comparison and equitable wage and salary structure (Equal Pay Act).  Job descriptions are often used as supporting documentation when it comes to establishing a job’s exempt or non-exempt status (Fair Labor Standards Act).  Job descriptions provide a basis from which to determine whether an applicant with a disability is qualified for the job and to determine if any accommodation is required to perform the essential functions of the position (ADA analysis).

    Outdated job descriptions lead to risky business decisions.  For example, if an employee is terminated because he/she could not perform a job function but that function is not on his/her job description, the company risks a wrongful termination charge.  Similarly, if a disabled employee is terminated due to inability to perform an essential job function, but the essential job function is not listed on the description, the employee may claim that he/she was terminated due to his/her disability, not a legitimate business reason.

    A practical way of updating job descriptions is to ask managers to confirm that the job description is up-to-date as part of the performance review process.   You may also give employees a copy of their job description and ask them to give feedback to their managers.  Review all job descriptions on a set schedule, such as during the annual performance review.

    From a format perspective, job descriptions should contain the following sections and statements:

    • Essential duties and responsibilities
    • FLSA classification
    • Job specifications (i.e., education requirements, other skills required)
    • Physical demands, work environment
    • Job Summary or purpose
    • Signature and date section for the employee and supervisor
    • Physical demands statement: “Reasonable accommodations may be made to enable individuals with disabilities to perform the essential functions.”