When was the last time your small business audited your job descriptions for legal compliance?

As a part of your standard HR practices, you should regularly update your job descriptions. Each job should have its own job description. These descriptions are the foundation of whether your employees can be considered overtime exempt or not. To ensure your company’s compliance with legal requirements, you should review your current job descriptions for a few common requirements.

Do You Have Written Job Descriptions for Each Opening?

At Asure, we conducted a survey of over 1,000 small businesses. During the survey, we asked questions about eight key components. As a part of the section on hiring and recruiting, we asked fast-growth and slow-growth companies if they had written job descriptions for each opening. 

These were our results:

  • 76% of zero-growth companies had written job descriptions 
  • 80% of fast-growth businesses reported having written job descriptions.

In reality, both of these figures are likely much higher than they should be. Following the survey, Asure’s VP of HR compliance, learning, and development, Mary Simmons, talked about the survey’s findings on Mission to Grow’s episode, “Recruiting & Hiring: Why Fast-Growth SMBs are More Effective & Compliant.”

Simmons mentioned how surprised she was about the narrow spread. However, she pointed out, “My gut would say that, on the qualitative side, your fast-growth firms are probably writing better job descriptions.” 

When Simmons consults with clients, she performs a Fair Labor Standard Act (FLSA) audit to see which workers are exempt or non-exempt. The job description is the basis of this determination, and many companies fail to provide enough relevant information in the job description to justify an exempt status. At a recent consultation, she found that only 2 out of 15 positions had proper job descriptions.

Written Job Descriptions Have Two Major Issues

In Simmons’ experience, written job descriptions have two key issues. They are either too short or too cryptic. 

When a job description is too short, it doesn’t cover all the necessary for demonstrating an exempt or non-exempt status. Likewise, cryptic descriptions don’t clearly describe the job requirements and tasks, so they can’t be used for an FLSA audit. 

Zero-growth and fast-growth companies are both likely to use job descriptions. However, fast-growth businesses most likely have better quality descriptions. 

The Top 10 Qualities Found in Good Job Descriptions

If you want to improve your company’s job descriptions and make sure you’re in legal compliance, use the following tips and best practices.

1. Be Realistic About Qualification Requirements 

Modern job descriptions are used for recruitment, role clarification, HR purposes, and performance management. As a recruitment tool, job descriptions can be used to hone the job posting to attract the right candidate. A good description can help applicants determine if they have the qualifications and experience necessary for the job. 

Because of this, it’s important to be realistic about qualification requirements. For example, some jobs don’t actually need a college degree or 10 years of experience. Overly specific or extensive requirements can deter people from applying to your position. 

2. Write Accurate Working Conditions and Physical Demands

From a compliance standpoint, it’s important to be accurate for another reason. Many companies add standard physical requirements, like an expectation to lift 50 pounds, in every job description. If you’re hiring someone to be an admin, they probably don’t need to lift 50 pounds to do so. Keeping this requirement could deter people who have disabilities.

Also, be mindful about how you write this section. For instance, a job description for a store clerk may need to be updated so that the worker is required to “move around the store” instead of “walking around the store.” Some applicants could be in a wheelchair, so this change makes the description more disability-friendly.

3. Clarify the Job Titles and Roles

To be protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and other federal laws, the candidate must be able to perform the job’s essential functions with or without reasonable accommodations. Because of this, it’s important to be clear about the job’s requirements and job titles. It’s also useful for helping employees understand their role and purpose within the organization.

4. Accurate Company Culture 

Many job descriptions include sections about the company. This area is useful for introducing the business and describing the company culture. Job descriptions are frequently used during the onboarding process, and the job posting often incorporates similar elements. As a result, it’s a good idea to spend time describing the company culture so that new hires know what to expect. 

5. Avoid Anything That May Violate Disability and Anti-Discrimination Rules

It’s incredibly important to avoid verbiage that could violate disability and anti-discrimination rules. As a general rule, your job description should not include seeing, hearing, walking, and similar verbs. These words may violate ADA provisions, and they discourage candidates with disabilities. 

Instead, it’s always better to focus on the actual requirements of the position. Rather than say someone must see the daily sales figures, you might rewrite it to say they must review the sales figures. 

6. Include Benefits

Job descriptions aren’t just a way to show ADA compliance. They also help you onboard employees by helping them know what to expect. By including job-related benefits and salary ranges, you can reduce turnover rates and help employees discover their new benefits package. 

7. Set the Stage for Future Performance Management

A job description is often used as the basis for a job posting, but it can also be used for performance management needs. If you have a well-written job description, you can use the job requirements and expectations to make a rubric for the worker’s annual review. Then, you can let employees know this is the rubric they’ll be judged on so that they’ll know which tasks to master first.

8. Remember: Job Descriptions Play a Key Role in Determining Non-Exempt Status 

Under the FLSA, job descriptions are used to determine whether an employee is non-exempt or exempt from overtime requirements. If your job description is poorly written, you may have to pay someone for overtime hours when they should have been exempt. Because of this, it is incredibly important to describe job duties with care. 

9. Review Job Descriptions With Employees Before They Start Work

If you aren’t incorporating job descriptions into the onboarding process, you’re missing out on an important benefit. A good job description should be the basis for your onboarding procedures, performance reviews, and job postings. When the new hire begins their first day of work, the job description is a good way to review the role’s expectations and make sure the new hire is ready for their new job. 

10. Get the Employee’s Signature on the Job Description 

Finally, you should always get workers to sign off on the job description. The employee’s signature shows they understand the essential functions, duties, and job requirements. If you ever need to fire an employee, a signed job description is legal proof that the employee understood the job’s requirements and agreed to perform them. 

Find Out If Your Job Descriptions Are Compliant 

With a good job description, you can attract and retain top talent. They are required for FLSA audits and are useful if you have to discipline or fire an employee. Plus, good job descriptions are helpful for your company’s onboarding and performance reviews. 

If you’re trying to improve your legal compliance and update your job descriptions, we can help. To learn more, reach out to Asure’s team of small business payroll and HR experts

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