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Job descriptions – more important than you think
January 6, 2005
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Old Saybrook, Conn. -- If your company has not updated its job descriptions lately, it might be an unpleasant surprise to compare them with the actual work performed by employees today. With job descriptions essential to so many human resource functions, it's particularly important that companies take the time to update their organizations' descriptions.

"I've never run into anyone who has admitted liking to write job descriptions," says Martin Simon, legal editor at HR.BLR.com, State HR Answers and Tools Online. "But these tools, sometimes called position descriptions, are critical to effective and legal human resource administration."

Job descriptions are typically used to drive recruitment campaigns, set expectations for new workers, establish salary grade levels for groups of jobs, and align individual goals and activities with an organization's strategic objectives. A good job description follows a simple but consistent format that describes key roles played by that job, as well as "essential functions." A job description should not set physical tasks that would run into compliance problems with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

ADA compliance is one standard when creating job descriptions, "but it's in the area of compliance with the FLSA's new overtime regulations where job descriptions have increased in importance," says Simon. "If written correctly, the job description should clearly list the skills required. Using the duties in that document, along with salary data and knowledge of the new overtime regulations, it should be easy to substantiate to the Department of Labor (DOL) that a job be considered exempt or nonexempt from overtime." The DOL goes further on this point: "The exempt or nonexempt status of any particular employee must be determined on the basis of whether the employee's salary and duties meet the requirements of the regulations."

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