How poor job descriptions can lead to courtroom losses

Dive Brief:

  • Job descriptions are vital for employers when laying out specific workplace duties and responsibilities.
  • Additionally, they often can provide an employer legal defense should litigation arise from duties an employer believes are essential to a job, especially when it comes to the often tricky area of "exempt" vs. "non-exempt" in overtime payment.
  • According to an article at The Business Journals, however, when creating job descriptions, there is no guarantee when it comes to legal defensibility. In fact, if badly written or used improperly, a job description can be turned into a courtroom advantage by plaintiff's attorneys in a discrimination lawsuit, says author Ed Zalewski.

Dive Insight:

For example, Zalewski cited two specific cases where employers who faced lawsuits for back overtime pay, based on missclassification of workers as exempt, have turned to job descriptions as critical evidence to support their case -- but lost. In one case, Morgan v. Family Dollar Stores, more than 1,000 workers were ultimately awarded $35 million in back pay and legal fees because of poorly used job descriptions.

In that case, Zalewski wrote, the employer admitted in court that, among other things, it never "examined whether the job descriptions accurately reflected daily activities." It also used the identical job description for all of the jobs in question.

The primary message to employers: Don't use the same description for many positions in different locations, or use similar descriptions for exempt and non-exempt positions beause if you do, you are taking a huge risk should it result in ltigation.



Filed Under: Legal