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Using Job Descriptions to Protect Your Business

Using Job Descriptions to Protect Your BusinessToday a client called me to tell me about an employee who had a worker’s comp claim and wanted to return to work.  My client contended that the employee was not able to perform the essential duties of the job and therefore she would not let him return.  In our ensuing discussion I asked her if she had a job description for the employee.  “No,” she responded, “we know we should have them but we just never get around to it.

This is a common refrain.  Although many employers neglect to complete their job descriptions, most do understand the importance of job descriptions when it comes to determining essential duties in the event of possible claims under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).  They are also important to protect your organization against discrimination claims.

A job description that carefully outlines both the essential functions and additional functions of the employee’s position is a valuable tool.

HIRING:  When interviewing potential job candidates, you should create a list of interview questions based on the job description.  For instance, if “ability to think quickly under pressure” is an essential function then these questions can be asked:

  1. Tell me about a time you had to think quickly under pressure
  2. How do you feel you do under pressure?  Can you give me an example?

As you move through your list of questions that have all been created around the job description, you can grade the response of the each respondent by using a scale of 1-10.   At the end of the interview you will have a series of graded questions to be used to make your decision about whom to hire.  If someone then accuses you of discriminating against them for age, gender etc., you have created a defense.  Your graded interview will show that it was not a subjective choice resulting in discrimination but an objective choice based on the data received in the interview.

PERFORMANCE:  When evaluating your employee’s performance, a similar metric is used.  Taking each element of the job description, “grade” the employee’s performance on each of the tasks.  Keep in mind that on a scale of 1-10, 5 is an average performance.  If an employee complains that they should have received a promotion over another employee, this documentation will provide a defense for the employer.

In today’s litigious society, employers must document in a variety of ways to defend themselves against claims of harassment and discrimination.  Using job descriptions properly can provide such documentation.

About the Author: Shelie Richardson is a Certified Insurance Counselor employed by the Clark-Mortenson Agency of Woodstock, VT. She works in the Business Solutions Department, specializing in assisting organizations with Human Resource Compliance and Safety issues.

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