Job descriptions are not required by law, but job descriptions often impact on legal matters. Learn how job descriptions matter when it comes to the law.
We will begin by talking about the good old job description. Most everyone has a job description, and you probably do. Interestingly, job descriptions are not required by law. However, job descriptions can affect legal matters, including when you're hiring. There are three main legal areas where job descriptions show up. The first is in discrimination claims. Where there are no job descriptions, applicants have room to argue the job requirements changed based on who that manager wanted to hire.
Good news is when they're up to date, job descriptions can document the consistent application of job requirements across job titles without regard to gender, race, color, religion, national origin, or age. Second, job descriptions come up during the disability accommodation process. For example, a job applicant will argue they were ruled out for employment due to having a disability related to performing an essential job function.
If you've prepared written job descriptions, you can use that job description to help define what is known in the ADA as an essential job function. If a task or responsibility is not defined in the job description, then it's often the applicant's or the employee's version of what an essential job function is. This is important because companies are only required to provide disability accommodation where a job applicant's or an employee's task is considered an essential job function.
I encourage employers to require that regular attendance is an essential job function to avoid claimants making the argument that it's not. When creating job descriptions, it's wise to identify the physical requirements of that job, such as being able to lift 50 pound bags on a regular basis, or being able to do day-to-day entry for eight hours a day, day after day. An excellent resource on the impact of job descriptions on ADA accommodation is provided by the Job Accommodation Network, otherwise known as JAN.
Job descriptions are also important when it comes to determining an employee's non-exempt versus exempt status. As we'll discuss later in the course, exempt employees are people such as executives, managers, and professionals. This is important because non-exempt employees are generally paid hourly and entitled to overtime pay and other protections, whereas exempt employees are required to be paid a salary without regard to their hours worked.
Agencies will ask whether the tasks and responsibilities identified in the job descriptions are that of an exempt professional, administrator, manager, salesperson, or computer worker. If so, they are not entitled to overtime, no matter how long they work. The U.S. Department of Labor website has information that identifies the responsibility of an exempt employee versus a non-exempt employee.
Are these responsibilities spelled out within their job descriptions? I recommend HR and managers conduct an annual review of job descriptions with their employees to make sure they accurately reflect the work being done. This is true for your job description too. A free resource that can help you create or modify job descriptions is ONET, the Department of Labor's website which contains most jobs in the U.S..
Remember, a good job description leads to clarity, which is an essential part of good management and compliance.
DISCLAIMER: This course addresses US law concepts that may not apply in all countries. LinkedIn (including Lynda.com) and the instructor are not giving legal advice. Neither Linkedin (including Lynda.com) nor the instructor represent you. The information conveyed through this course is similar to a college or law school course; it is not intended to give legal advice, but instead to communicate information to help viewers understand the basics of the topic presented. The views and legal interpretations presented in this course do not necessarily represent the views of LinkedIn or Lynda.com.
- How job descriptions matter when it comes to the law
- Offer letters, contracts, and agreements
- Questions you can't ask job applicants
- Test and assessment instruments
- Managing employee leave
- Harassment and discrimination laws
- Handling bullies in the workplace
- Employee discipline