August 8, 2017

The Importance of Up-to-Date Job Descriptions

Weekly HR News - Hiring Practices

The Importance of Up-to-Date Job Descriptions

Even though there are no state or federal requirements to have job descriptions, there are many legal issues that can be avoided if they are current and properly drafted.  Some of those legal issues include requests for Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) accommodations and employee classification.    

Under state and federal ADA laws there are requirements for reasonable accommodations for qualified individuals with disabilities. Job descriptions serve an important purpose when it comes to determining what the essential functions of the job are, and they can be used by physicians to determine whether or not the employee can perform the required job duties.  If it is determined that the employee or applicant cannot perform the essential functions, the employer must decide whether or not a reasonable accommodation can be provided. If a complaint is filed against the employer based on the denial of an accommodation, the courts will review the job description, in addition to other pertinent information, to determine whether or not the employer was correct in the denial.

In addition to ADA accommodations, job descriptions can assist in determining whether a candidate or employee should be exempt or nonexempt pursuant to Kentucky and federal law. A job description must accurately reflect the duties of the position as well as include the applicable exemptions that show that the employee in the position qualifies as being exempt from overtime.  For more information on the requirements for exemptions see the Exempt v. Nonexempt blog post.  As with ADA complaints, if an employee makes a complaint based on misclassification, one of the items that will be reviewed is his or her job description. 

On the practical side, employers should use job descriptions when creating advertisements for hiring new employees. Having a current job description will make it easier to craft the job advertisement, serve as a platform for interview questions, and be an educational tool for interested candidates. 

For employees that are already on the job, this document is a great communications tool on the required aspects of their position. The descriptions can include performance standards and work rules, such as specific safety requirements that apply to that particular job. Supervisors can also use them for backup of any disciplinary action that results from not meeting expectations that are set out in the description, especially if the employee has signed the document.

Lastly, many employee positions require specific licenses, certifications, degrees and annual trainings that should be included within the description.  This is also a great place to reiterate that the position requires a valid driver’s license; is subject to an annual motor vehicle check, physical exam and/or drug testing as set out in your policies; or that those in the position are considered essential in the event of inclement weather or natural disaster.  Make sure to also include other important internal qualifications such as attendance requirements and being able to work well on a team. 

When up-to-date, the job description can assist the employer in creating a more productive, legally compliant workplace. But when allowed to become out-of-date, or when poorly drafted, the job description can be a major liability for the employer. 

For questions on creation of job descriptions, sample job descriptions or other personnel matters, contact, KLC Personnel Services Specialist, Andrea Shindlebower Main.