JOB DESCRIPTIONS - Why are they so important?

Why is a job description so important?  I always tell employers there are four reasons:

First, a job description clearly states the expectations of the position.  If you have an employee that is struggling with the role, do they know the expectations of the role?  If an employee is not doing everything they should be doing, have you provided them in writing what your expectations are?  Particularly, the essential job functions?  When I started my career out of college, my first position was with the Garden City Cooperative in Garden City, Kansas.  I took on a position that was new (not a replacement).  I had a fancy titled called, “Communications and Compliance Coordinator”.  They gave me verbal instructions of what the role should be, but no job description.  I call this baptism by fire, so I moved forward with my verbal instructions and did the best I could with the information I had.  Ironically, I showed up to work after six months of being in this new role and on my desk was a job description – my job description for this new role!  Guess what?  I was only doing approximately 70% of what my employer wanted me to do.  Now I knew my expectations!

Second, the Department of Labor uses job descriptions to assist in classifying employees correctly as either non-exempt (hourly) or exempt (salaried).  This is based on many factors that you can review with the FLSA (Fair Labor Standards Act) checklist, which is attached for your review.  If you receive a complaint from an employee or former employee concerning their pay and they report this to the Department of Labor, they may conduct an audit of your payroll practices and the first document they ask for is the job description.  This will assist them as well on the classification process (exempt or non-exempt).

Third, a job description (example job description template) needs to list two items for purposes of the ADAAA (American Disabilities Act Amendments Act): the essential job functions and the physical demands.  If an employee is asking for accommodations for his/her position, it is generally in these two categories.  If you don’t have this in writing, it is difficult to either provide the accommodation or not because you don’t have a job description.  Also, keep in mind once you accommodate one person is a particular job role it opens the organization to further claims of accommodations for the position in the future.  We always tell our clients, if it is an essential part of the job and the accommodation will create an undue hardship, you should decline the accommodation.

Fourth, if your organization wants to complete a compensation analysis survey, you will need to have updated job descriptions.  Bottom line, when you are doing the comparison, you need to make certain you are comparing “apples to apples” and not “apples to oranges”.  Job titles can be deceiving, but essential job functions and qualifications are what must be updated to make the proper comparison analysis.

If you have any other questions or concerns concerning this subject matter, we are here to discuss.  785-233-7860.

What our clients say...

McElroy's, Inc.

Dan Beal


McElroy's, Inc.

"When McElroy's first started in business, there were not the extensive human resources compliance requirements that there are today. HR Partners has assisted us by formalizing our policies and updating our employment records to make sure we meet these requirements. This has enabled McElroy's, Inc. to focus on what we do best and continue to provide "Service You Trust" to our clients."