Accurate, up-to-date and comprehensive job descriptions are essential in defending against all manner of employee lawsuits.
As the following case shows, you can’t argue that an applicant doesn’t have the necessary experience or education if your job description doesn’t list those qualifications. You may have an even bigger problem if the person who actually holds the job doesn’t have the necessary experience or education.
Recent case: Richard Washburn worked for the Army as a temporary supervisory appraiser. When he had surgery for jaw cancer, he asked for permission to work from home to reduce his risk of infection. The Army approved the accommodation, and Washburn got good reviews.
When the temporary position expired, Washburn wasn’t selected for a permanent spot. He alleged discrimination, but the Army said he didn’t get the job because he wasn’t a “certified appraiser.”
But the original posting, which included the job description, did not list being certified as a requirement. Plus, the person who held the job next didn’t have the certification either.
Based on the lack of evidence that being certified was a job requirement, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals sent the case back to trial. (Washburn v. Harvey, No. 06-41232, 5th Cir., 2007)
Final note: Job descriptions should list the essential functions of the position, education and training requirements and the experience required to hold the position. You also need to do a reality check—ask whether the employees in those positions today actually meet the requirements and perform the essential functions.
Review job descriptions as part of the annualprocess. Have employees sign off on their job descriptions during annual reviews.
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