Even though job descriptions are absolutely essential, too few employers use them effectively and some even view them as a nuisance. Every employer should maintain a file of up-to-date job descriptions for all the positions in the organization.
Because duties change over time, you must regularly update job descriptions to ensure they accurately describe what employees do. Job descriptions are one of the first documents requested by lawyers representing workers and by the administrative agencies that enforce the law. If you don’t have one or it fails to accurately describe the job in question, your case is already headed downhill.
Job descriptions have taken on new importance since passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act. That’s because the ADA states that disabled workers and applicants are entitled to reasonable accommodations for their disabilities if such accommodations are needed to perform the essential functions of a job. Therefore, every job description must identify which functions are essential to the job and which are not.
Observation: According to the EEOC, your judgment as to what functions are essential as identified in your job description will carry the most weight if you identified those functions before you advertised the slot and began interviewing. If you don’t provide the EEOC or a court hearing a case with a job description, they may create one for you and hold you to it.
Job descriptions aren’t “decreed from on high.” You must carefully construct them by obtaining input from the person(s) who holds the job, supervisors of that position, and those who regularly interact with and/or report to the person in that position. You’ll want to know:
- The job title.
- The job’s essential functions, such as whether it requires heavy lifting and, if so, how often.
- Secondary or infrequent duties.
- Job performance standards, such as sales quotas.
- Who supervises the position.
- Whom the worker supervises.
- Any special training, experience or education required for the position, including special certifications, degrees and skills.
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