Question:

I own a company that has been growing steadily over the last few years. I have read that my company should have job descriptions for employees. How do I start that process?

Answer:

Job descriptions are not required by law in California, but there are several good reasons your company should have them. One of the most important things to keep in mind is that the job descriptions should be accurate and should be reviewed at least once every two years as job duties may change.

During the recruiting process, job descriptions help managers find the best employee for the job and give applicants a realistic picture of what the job requires. After hire, job descriptions can be used to communicate expectations for employees’ performance. Management can refer back to job descriptions in training, supervising, and evaluating employees, delegating assignments, and strategic planning for hiring and reductions in force. Job descriptions also provide consistent standards for evaluating job performance and help promote fairness.

Another important reason for having job descriptions is defining the essential functions of a job for purposes of accommodating applicants and employees with disabilities. A disabled person who can perform the essential functions of the job with or without reasonable accommodation is protected by law from discrimination based on disability. Be sure to identify which job functions are essential when writing the job description.

Job descriptions can also help determine whether an employee is able to return to work following a medical leave of absence. In certain situations you may ask an employee to obtain a fitness-for-duty certification confirming the employee’s ability to perform the essential functions of the job.

Finally, the duties listed in a job description may clarify whether an employee is exempt or non-exempt for purposes of overtime premium pay requirements and other wage and hour laws. For the most common type of exemption, the “white collar” exemption, the employee must be paid a salary of at least twice the minimum wage and must spend a majority of his or her time performing certain executive, administrative, or professional duties. Those exempt duties should be listed in the job description for any exempt employee.

If you decide to draft job descriptions, consider including the following:

  • Job title,
  • Essential job functions and duties,
  • Knowledge and skills required,
  • Days and hours customarily worked,
  • Physical requirements of the job, for example lifting, bending, standing, etc.,
  • Lines of supervision, and
  • Performance standards.

The Department of Labor has a website to help employers write job descriptions
(http://www.careerinfonet.org/jobwriter/default.aspx?nodeid=19).

Before drafting job descriptions, talk to the employees who are performing the jobs and have them make a list of their duties and the physical requirements for the tasks. This will help you include all actual duties and give your employees input into their own job descriptions. You should also have a clear understanding of your company’s business goals and needs, to make sure that the duties in the job descriptions are consistent with the work you are trying to accomplish.
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