Job Descriptions—Why They Are Essential!


Do you have them? Are they accurate and updated?  Are they carrying their weight for your business?



They are the jack-of-all-trades for your business in terms of HR related functions.  Job descriptions are useful, plain-language tools that describe the tasks, duties, functions and responsibilities of a position.  Job descriptions are used for so many things:

  • Recruiting tool
  • Determining salary levels
  • Conducting performance reviews
  • Clarifying missions
  • Establishing titles and pay grades
  • Creating reasonable accommodation controls
  • Career planning and training exercises

Additionally, and most important, job descriptions are important tools for maintaining compliance with the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Where to Start

A job description identifying essential job functions can be an employer’s best friend – if drafted correctly.  The most fool-proof method is to complete a job analysis.  An important thing to keep in mind when performing a job analysis is that it is an evaluation of the job, not the person doing the job. There are many ways to perform a job analysis, but all require the cooperation of the employee in the position, his or her manager(s) and others the employee works closely with while performing his or her job duties.

Best Steps for the Job Analysis

  • Have employees complete a job analysis questionnaire.
  • Interview employees, asking them specific questions about their job duties and responsibilities.
  • Obtain log sheets from employees with information about each of their tasks and the time spent on each task for at least one full work week.
  • Complete desk audits where you observe employees doing their jobs at different times of the day and days of the week and track what they do and for how long.
    • Essential functions listed in a job description should reflect the actual requirements of the position as performed by employees. A court will not necessarily accept an employer’s written job requirements for Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) purposes unless the employer can show how employees have to regularly comply with those requirements.
  • Interview supervisors and managers, and other employees, clients and customers the employee may interact with while performing the job.
  • Compare the job to other jobs in the department as well as the job grade or job family to show where it falls on the pay scale.

If there is more than one person doing the same job, make sure to observe and obtain feedback and information from more than one person. You will want to review your findings with the employees who do the job as well as their supervisors and managers to tweak your findings until you have an accurate reflection of the job duties and responsibilities.

The final job analysis provides a thorough understanding of the essential functions of the job, a list of all duties and responsibilities, the job’s relative importance in comparison with other jobs, the knowledge, skills and abilities needed to perform the job, and the conditions under which the work is completed.  Once an accurate overview of a position is developed, employers should update the job description to match the results of the job analysis.

The Takeaway

Keep job descriptions current and accurate. If the job description is out of date when an employee seeks FMLA leave, create a current and accurate list of essential job functions, indicate in the designation notice that the employee will be required to submit a fitness for duty certification addressing his or her ability to perform his or her specific job, and provide the list of essential job functions with the notice.

There are numerous court cases that have been swayed either for or against the employer based solely on how a job description was written which is why it’s important to get them right.

If you would like help creating job descriptions or updating them so they are inclusive of all facets of the job and compliant please reach out to your HR team!  



Susan Arnold
HR On-Call, LLC
p. 515.401.2233

A little more about us: Susan Arnold, owner and lead HR Consultant at HR On-Call, LLC. Susan has 20+ years of HR experience and provides a HR presence to business organizations without the overhead expense of a full-time employee. Susan helps business owners improve employer/employee relationships and allows them to focus on their business while resting assured that they are in full compliance with state and federal law. Areas of expertise:

  • Reduce Employer Risk and Liability
  • Customized Employee Handbooks
  • Performance Reviews
  • Improve Employee/Employer Relationships
  • Background Checks
  • Personality Assessments
  • Guaranteed EEO Compliance
  • Employee Retention
  • Recruitment / Hiring
  • Employee Discipline/Discharge

Susan is passionate about her customers and listens to their needs. If you are interested in any of the details above or would like more information about her services, please contact Susan! If you have questions on how your specific policy should read or need help navigating a certain instance, contact HR On-Call, LLC

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