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Are Employee Job Descriptions Really Necessary?

Posted on May 28, 2016

Even though California nor federal law requires companies to have job descriptions, they are still helpful tools for both practical and legal reasons. 

Important reasons for you to create and update your job descriptions:

Determine and Justify an Employee’s Exempt Status

A job description must accurately reflect the duties of a particular position. An exempt status requires the employee fall within an applicable exemption and the burden is on the employer to demonstrate the position qualifies as exempt.

For example, if you claim a person is exempt from minimum wage, timekeeping and overtime requirements under the “administrative” exemption, the job description should state that the employee “regularly exercises independent judgment and discretion about matters of significance” or words to that effect. Again, describing duties that involve such independent judgment and discretion, such as “negotiates” or “decides,” would also be helpful.

Help in the Interactive Process in ADA situations

California and federal laws require reasonable accommodations for qualified individuals with disabilities. Job descriptions can help with the interactive process to satisfy those requirements.

A job description is the starting point for what are the essential job duties of a position. The applicant or employee must identify which of the listed duties he or she cannot perform or requires reasonable accommodation.

A job description can also be helpful in soliciting the advice of professionals, such as physicians, chiropractors, counselors or rehabilitation therapists about whether the individual can actually perform a particular job.

Job Descriptions are a Communication Tool

Job descriptions should articulate to an employee exactly what tasks they are expected to perform. Setting clear guidelines helps employees perform to your expectations.

Find the Right Employees for a Job

You can use a well-written job description in the recruitment process because it tells the applicant what the position may involve or require. In addition, those particular skills or abilities that are required.

To Describe Minimum Qualifications

If a job requires a particular certification, such as a commercial driver’s license, a particular degree, or professional designation, list it in a job description.

Similarly, if a negative drug test is required before starting or continuing work that should be clearly stated in the job description.

Other objective and minimum qualifications should be listed, such as the need for good attendance and the ability to work well with others.

Then, if a person seeks a position and does not possess the required certification or qualifications, you have a nondiscriminatory reason for not placing the person in the job.

The above material illustrates why every company should have current, complete and accurate job descriptions for each position. Creating and updating job descriptions is a task that few managers and HR professionals enjoy, but hopefully we have provided sufficient reasons to revisit & update your job descriptions.

Still not sure, just ask your employment law attorney for their opinion.  In California, employers should always be concerned with defending employment claims.

Lauren Sims, a Principal HR Consultant with eqHR Solutions, prepared this article.

Need help updating your employees’ job descriptions or navigating the ever-changing landscape of California Employment Law?  Call today for a no obligation consultation with an HR Professional.

eqHR Solutions provides tactical and strategic human resources support for businesses in Southern California and the San Francisco / Bay area.