The Importance Of Job Descriptions

Complete and accurate job descriptions are essential for employers for a variety of reasons. As an initial matter, a good job description helps identify the right people for the job because it identifies the skills and abilities needed for a particular position. Interested applicants should be able to independently determine whether or not they are capable or interested in fulfilling the tasks identified in the description. Therefore, maintaining good job descriptions will save the employer time, hassle, and money in the recruitment process.

Further, a good job description notifies an employee of the duties and responsibilities expected of that employee in his or her position, and it provides objective, written metrics by which the employer can evaluate the employee’s performance and standards. Job descriptions are therefore beneficial for an employer’s ability to reasonably and fairly assess whether an employee is deserving of any type of employment action, such as a promotion, job transfer, wage raise, corrective action, or termination.  

A good job description also provides employers with a level of protection under the law. For example, in evaluating the “essential functions” of an individual’s job under the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission considers the employee’s job description as the primary determinant of those essential functions. Having a complete and adequate job description will allow an employer to proactively deal with potential ADA claims by engaging in the ADA-mandated “interactive process” and assessing whether an applicant or employee is able to perform the essential functions of the job with or without reasonable accommodation. Along the same lines, a thorough job description can be beneficial in obtaining advice from an employee’s physician in determining the employee’s ability to perform the job.

In addition, the Texas Workforce Commission (“TWC”) has pointed out that having a good job description makes it much easier to deal with an unemployment claim if the work separation occurred because of a claimant’s refusal or failure to perform the functions of the position. In elaborating on this point, the TWC says, “in a quit case, if the employee was aware of what the job involved prior to taking it, and later quits rather than do the agreed-upon job, the claimant would not have a good argument at all for claiming that he or she had good work-connected cause for quitting. In a discharge case, failing to do one’s job can lead to a judgment of various forms of misconduct, including insubordination, avoidable negligence, failing to follow instructions, failing to do one’s best, and so on.”

See http://www.twc.state.tx.us/news/efte/job_descriptions.html (last visited August 24, 2017). 

And finally, a good job description (one that accurately reflects the actual job duties of the employee) will assist an employer in properly determining and justifying an employee’s exempt status under the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”). By setting out the employee’s FLSA status directly in the job description (exempt versus non-exempt), the employer will also set the parameters for the employee’s expected work hours, type of pay, and overtime expectations.

So what makes a good job description? A job description should be clear and concise. It should contain, at the least, the job title and a description of the legitimate minimum qualifications for the job (i.e., required degrees, certifications, licenses, education, experience, skills, and/or competencies). It should also contain other objective qualifications for performing the job, such as good attendance, working the assigned schedule, compliance with timekeeping requirements, and ability to stay on task and work well with others. It should define where the job fits within the company hierarchy and a description of the reporting relationships affecting the position.  And perhaps most importantly, it should contain a full and accurate list of the duties and responsibilities expected of the employee, while not exaggerating the importance of any of those roles. According to the TWC, any good job description will be specific enough to accurately describe the job in question, yet flexible enough to include other duties as assigned.

 

*Autum Flores has substantial experience in a variety of complex civil litigation matters with a particular emphasis on labor and employment, commercial litigation, regulatory, antitrust, and securities matters.

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