COVID-19 Resource Center

August 12, 2021

JOB DESCRIPTIONS: THE NEW REMOTE WORKPLACE

Federal law does not mandate job descriptions; however, the importance of well-written job descriptions cannot be overstated, especially in a world in which remote work is prevalent.  Effective job descriptions are an important element of appropriate employment practices.  They are useful in almost every facet of the employment relationship, including:  hiring; managing employee performance; clarifying performance expectations; determining appropriate disability accommodations; and handling employee requests for leave of absence.  Existing job descriptions may need to be reviewed and revised to remain current with the changing business needs and employee development.

Job descriptions typically include the following elements:  job title, job classification, job category, duties, qualifications, physical requirements, and additional information such as location, travel requirements, or working hours.  The job classification should indicate whether the job is exempt or nonexempt from minimum wage and overtime pay requirements under federal and applicable state or local laws.  The job category should delineate whether the position is full or part time, or a temporary, seasonal, contract, or regular position.  Qualifications may include required or preferred education level, professional license or certifications, prior work experience, skills, or traits.  Physical requirements should specify whether the employee will need to stand, sit, or lift, as well as other details of the physical workplace, such as working around dust or fumes.  Annual review of these components is always a recommended best practice.  Job functions and workplace protocol change during the best of times.  The challenges of the recent pandemic and the greater reliance on changing needs and remote work requirements has heightened the need for updating employee job descriptions.  Employers should review existing job descriptions to determine if any of these components should be modified as a result of new employment practices, positions, or functions.  Job descriptions set the standard for an appropriate hiring process.  They provide the framework for accurate job postings and establish objective criteria for the position.  Post-pandemic, employers should consider how their business has changed, what their current needs for production might be and how they can modify their positions and practices to accommodate the changing work environment.    

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires employers to provide qualified individuals with disabilities with reasonable accommodations unless doing so poses an undue hardship.  A “qualified individual” is one who possesses the skills, experience, education, and other job-related requirements necessary for the position and is able to perform the essential functions of the job with or without a reasonable accommodation.  A job description can codify the qualifications and essential functions of a position.  Applicants and employees who are not qualified are not subject to the protections of the ADA.  Job descriptions aid employers in the interactive process as they work with qualified disabled employees to determine what reasonable accommodations may be implemented.  In today’s business climate, employers face increased challenges in returning employees to work.  Now, positions and descriptions should be reviewed to determine whether the business can continue to provide those modifications long term or whether the employee must return to the workplace.

Well written job descriptions provide countless benefits to employers.  In a new work culture where employees may request to work remotely for a variety of reasons, it is especially important that employers indicate whether on-site attendance is an essential function of the job.  While web designers and writers may be able to work remotely without issue, crane operators and nurses are unable to do the same.  Other positions, such as administrative assistants and therapists, may be able to engage in a hybrid of remote and in-person work.  Job descriptions provide the employer with the opportunity to align their business needs with qualifications and the essential functions of the position.

If you are in need of assistance in reviewing or updating your employee job descriptions, please contact one of the attorneys in our Employment Law Group at EmploymentLaw@c-wlaw.com or 1-888-488-2638.