Compensation Cafe offered up a “Beginner’s Guide to Job Descriptions” a few days ago.  Aimed at department managers, the post does a fair job of discussing the mechanics of writing a job description.  At the end though, the post defers to the HR department to add in any finishing touches.  So what happens if you are writing the job description AND the HR department for the whole company, too?  Maybe some mid-level manager at Microsoft would appreciate the post, but owners of a business trying to man all posts will be left without the most important part.  Why – O – Why should I even be writing a job description?

There are some business reasons to write a job description: clarify what employees are to do, delineate between different jobs, show prospective employees during an interview, etc.  But, job descriptions are not required by law.  Whew, you think, “I’m done”.  “Forget those other reasons, I’ve got a business to run.”

Of course, as is so often the case with the law, that isn’t the whole story.  Job descriptions can be helpful with legal issues under the FLSA (Fair Labor Standards Act) and ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act).

Under the FLSA, employees can be exempt from overtime (see Exemptions from Overtime – June 26, 2011) if they meet certain requirements.  One reason to write job descriptions is to think about who you might be able to exempt and write job descriptions or change jobs in a way that just so happens.  Think of how much moohlah you can save without having to pay as much OT?  That is one of the real reasons for writing a job description and it kind of helps to know that when you set down to write it!

The same is true under the ADA.  Say Joani, your private company pilot, comes in to say she has to start wearing contacts.  HOLY COW, you think, I’M NOT CLIMBING ON A PLANE WITH A PILOT THAT CAN’T SEE!  WHAT IF SHE LOSES ONE!!!!!!  If you had a job description for the pilot position stating they have to have uncorrected 20/20 vision you might be able to more easily resolve the matter.  Now, you just look like the guy who is trying to come up with an excuse to fire his disabled pilot!  (Note, the answer under the ADA is not quite that simple, but a job description would certainly help your cause.)