January 31, 2023

Volume XIII, Number 31

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January 31, 2023

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January 30, 2023

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New Year, New Job Duties? Why It Might Be a Good Time to Update Job Descriptions

Your job descriptions may be more important than you think, and what better time to review and update them than the start of the new year? In this blog, we discuss why job descriptions are important and the things to consider when updating them.

Job descriptions help set employee expectations for their responsibilities. So, as the responsibilities of employees evolve with your business, your job descriptions may need some updating. Moreover, revising your job descriptions to accurately reflect the work being done and the true responsibilities of the job may help you spot gaps, or too much overlap, in your workforce.

On top of that, job descriptions also have legal implications. One of the most notable of these legal implications is under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Under the ADA, employers must give reasonable accommodations (if requested) to employees with disabilities, and an accommodation is inherently unreasonable if it excuses an employee from performing their essential job functions. Employees may bring suit and allege that you failed to provide a reasonable accommodation, and a common response is that an accommodation would have excused the employee from performing an essential function of his or her. To settle this argument, courts often look to the employee’s job description when deciding what the employee’s essential job functions are. Therefore, if a job function is essential to the position, be sure to include it in your job description. Otherwise, it may be difficult to make the argument that the job function was in fact essential.

Other discrimination laws also bring job descriptions into play. Discrimination laws prohibit you from taking any action, such as firing or refusing to hire any employee or prospective employee for a variety of reasons, including sex (Title VII), race (same), age (ADEA), disability (ADA), and others. However, these laws do not require you to keep someone who can’t complete their job duties or hire someone who isn’t qualified for the job. So, it is important that your job descriptions accurately reflect the duties of the job and its basic qualifications, and even preferences. This will help you back up your reason for letting an employee go who isn’t fulfilling their responsibilities or for not hiring an unqualified applicant.

Another example is the FLSA. The FLSA sets wage and hour requirements and, importantly, distinguishes greatly between exempt (often salaried) and nonexempt (often hourly) employees. Whether an employee is FLSA “exempt” depends on the type of work they do, such as managing other employees or engaging in executive-level work. Job descriptions should accurately reflect the work being done in order to help determine whether an employee is exempt or nonexempt.

Takeaways

These are just a few examples of why keeping accurate and updated job descriptions is important. As we begin the new year, take the time to review your job descriptions, reflect on what the responsibilities of those positions really are, and update the job descriptions accordingly. You could be saving yourself a legal headache!

© 2023 Bradley Arant Boult Cummings LLPNational Law Review, Volume XIII, Number 25
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About this Author

Sarahanne Y. Vaughan Labor and Employment Attorney Bradley Arant Boult Cummings Birmingham
Associate

Sarahanne Vaughan is an associate in Bradley’s Labor and Employment Practice Group.

Sarahanne received her J.D. (cum laude) from Wake Forest School of Law, where she served as articles editor for the Wake Forest Journal of Law and Policy. She also earned the Dean Suzanne Reynolds Award for both Employment Discrimination and Constitutional Law. Sarahanne earned a degree in Political Science from Rhodes College.

205-521-8629
Anne R. Yuengert Employment Attorney Bradley Birmingham
Partner

Anne Yuengert works with clients to manage their employees, including conducting workplace investigations of harassment or theft, training employees and supervisors, consulting on reductions in force and severance agreements, drafting employment agreements (including enforceable noncompetes) and handbooks, assessing reasonable accommodations for disabilities, and working through issues surrounding FMLA and USERRA leave. When preventive measures are not enough, she handles EEOC charges, OFCCP and DOL complaints and investigations, and has handled cases before arbitrators...

205-521-8362
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