If you had a claim against your company citing the American’s with Disabilities Act (ADA) or the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) laws, would your job descriptions protect you? If you are like most small to mid-size employers, probably not. And if they could, you probably wouldn’t have a claim in the first place. When done correctly, job descriptions outline expectations and boundaries for employees. They also provide a guide for employers to make legally sound employment decisions.
They matter for employers. ADA requires that all employment decisions regarding hiring, health maintenance, rehabilitation, and disability must be based on actual job requirements. Note that this does not mean job descriptions are required. However, without a job description, it is virtually impossible to prove an employment decision was based on job requirements, as the job requirements do not exist in a formal document, such as a job description.
They matter for employees. The job description is also valuable to employees. Clear expectations help employees make better decisions about applying for jobs they are truly qualified to perform as well as on-the-job decisions about how they are performing.
Characteristics of well-written job descriptions:
- Matches physical abilities to specific job requirements.
- Promotes safety.
- Allows for a light or modified transitional work program to be implemented, if needed, to return an injured worker back to gainful employment as soon as possible.
- Defines a minimum hiring standard for each position.
- Establishes screening procedures.
- Unique to each job, each employer (i.e., is NOT a generic description copy/pasted off the internet), with as many specifics as possible such as actual weights lifted, actual heights worked, dimensions of objects to be moved, number of motion repetitions, etc.
- Clear, concise, and easy for both the employee and the employer to understand the job purpose, functions (essential and marginal), physical demands, and skills required to perform the job.
- Current. Job descriptions should be reviewed yearly and updated as necessary to capture any changes in tasks required in each position. Protect yourself. Protect your employees. When was the last time you reviewed your job descriptions and compared them to work actually being performed?