Job Descriptions: Why You Should Care

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One of the most important policies a business can have in place is a clearly defined job description for each position.  This is a good way communicate the employer’s expectations of the employee, and can serve as an important reference point in the employee’s relationship with the business.  While not legally required under Minnesota law, job descriptions serve important legal purposes.

Americans with Disabilities Act: The ADA requires employers to make reasonable accommodations to a disabled individual who can perform the essential functions of the job that he or she seeks or is performing. Thus, it is extremely important to define the “essential functions” of a specific job to determine whether or not an accommodation can and should be offered. For example, is a regular presence required at the place of business? If not, telecommuting might be a reasonable accommodation. Physical requirements such as lifting, bending or standing for long periods of time are other essential functions that could be included in a job description and could be relevant in the discussion of a reasonable accommodation.

Fair Labor Standards Act: Both the federal and state FLSA require employers to pay non-exempt employees overtime when they work more than 40 or 48 hours per week (for further information about whether you should pay according to state or federal FLSA. Whether the job duties fall into one of the exempt exceptions under the FLSA, meaning that the employee is not entitled to overtime, will depend in large part on the job descriptions. Does the employee exercise independent judgment? Does she have authority to hire, fire and discipline other employees? Does she do office or nonmanual work? If so, the job is likely exempt, and having a written job description in place will make it easier to prove if it is ever challenged.

When employees and employers have written job descriptions, it will be easier for you as a manager to identify when employees are not meeting expectations, and to provide specific feedback on the employee’s missteps.



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