Job Description Creation 101

Businesses throughout this country—whether small, medium, or large—are busy trying to make money by providing goods and services to their customers and clients.  Charities, schools, governmental entities are also trying to provide services to their constituencies to help them.  It is fair to say that all such organizations—at least the ones that intend to survive—are focused on their core purposes and, most often, are single-minded in assuring that they meet their organizational goals.  Of course, in most instances, these organizations must employ people—people that they hope are competent, trustworthy, and efficient in providing these services to their customers, clients, and constituencies.  While these entities intuitively recognize the importance of their employees in meeting their goals, because the existential threat of failure looms large to many supervisors, business owners, and managers, they often give low priority to things that they view as diversions from their core purposes.  Unfortunately, many view the development of human resource forms, policies, and procedures as such diversions and, accordingly, either ignore or put off to another day developing such documents or hastily adopt documents they find on the internet, have used in a previous or alternative business, or obtain from other dubious sources.  Such an approach is obviously fraught with problems, particularly when it comes to job descriptions.

The development of job descriptions is undoubtedly viewed by most people, including many human resources professional and employment lawyers, as mundane and tedious work.  However, there are very few more important employment related documents.  A job description is at the center of most administrative and court proceedings, and, they are critical documents in, among others, overtime disputes, labor disputes, discrimination claims brought under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), First Amendment discrimination cases,  and Family and Medical Leave Act disputes.

For instance, at the core of all ADA accommodation requests and disputes is the question whether an individual “with or without reasonable accommodation, can perform the essential functions of the employment position that [the] individual holds or desires."  Similarly, in FMLA fitness-for-duty certifications “an employer must provide an employee with a list of essential functions of the employee’s job” in order to assess whether he or she can return to work. Moreover, while not dispositive, a job description can be extremely relevant in assessing whether an employee is exempt from overtime or minimum wage requirements under the FLSA.

Because of these issues, the development of accurate and comprehensive job descriptions is very important for all employers. The components of a complete job description include:

·                     Specific Position Identification Information
·                     Position Summary

·                     Job Duties

 o        Essential Job Duties

 o        Non-Essential Job Duties

·                     Job Qualification Requirements, Skills, and Attributes

·                     Working Conditions

 o        Physical Effort Requirements

 o        Atmospheric Conditions

 o        Hazards

 o        OSHA Categories

·                     Other Duties

While these descriptions broadly describe what should be included, the position or job descriptions must be comprehensive and specific.  Additionally, the job description must be prepared with or by somebody who has experience with the position who can accurately depict and describe the actual job requirements and duties.  In preparing the descriptions a person should:

·                     Give specific details rather than generalities

·                     Focus on the job to be done not on the person currently doing the job

·                     Update the job description frequently (annually is a good rule of thumb)

·                     Never use words that might give rise to an inference of discrimination, e.g., “youthful” or “able-bodied”

·                     Focus on outcomes not attitudes, e.g., replace “take initiative on projects” with “initiates, organizes, manages, and reports on assigned projects.

·                     Carefully differentiate between essential and non-essential functions

·                     Include all job duties that are consistently performed over a consistent amount of time

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