Prior to the recent changes in the workers' compensation laws, a Job Description that said "lifts heavy things" seemed to work. However, in today's high paced and complex environment, the need for a more detailed description of what an employee does, coupled with actual measurements, has become an absolute necessity. To put this need in proper perspective, we need a comparative baseline.
Using a Truck Driver as our example, the old Job Description might say (1) Drives the truck by shifting the gears and pushing the pedals; (2) Pulls the 5th wheel pin;(3) Cranks down the "landing gear" on the trailer; (4) Loads and unloads the truck.
In today's environment we need more. The new Job Function Analysis will contain the written description of what the employee does coupled with actual measurements of what it takes to do the job. As such, we would now add (1) what foot pound pressure does it take to shift the gears and push the pedals; (2) how much pressure is required to "pull" the 5th wheel pin; (3) how much pressure is required to crank the landing gear up and down and (4) a more detailed description of what is being loaded and unloaded as well as the physical pressure needed to accomplish this task, e.g. how much does each load segment weigh?
This document now becomes a valuable tool for three functions. First, it can be used in the hiring process to describe to the applicant just what the job requires while giving the doctor doing the post-offer/pre-placement physical a standard by which to measure and evaluate the applicant.
The second application applies to when there has been a injury. No longer does your doctor have to rely upon what the injured employee says he/she does. You now have a document that spells out exactly what the job is so as the doctor treats, he can decide if there are any restrictions needed, and whether or not modified duty is appropriate.
Finally, should there be a severe injury that may preclude the injured employee from being able to do the essential elements of their job, your doctor now has a guide to help determine whether the employee can return to the essential elements of the job or whether the "interactive meet and confer" process needs to be initiated.
Position Descriptions - Based on Job Function Analyses
Position descriptions are also definitely a valuable tool to aid productivity. They provide notice to employees and supervisors regarding the performance standards you intend to enforce. When position descriptions are used as an objective, job-related "road map" for supervisors to use in selecting and placing employees in specific jobs, and in later evaluating their performance, the position descriptions also assist in defending against claims of discrimination or inconsistent enforcement of company policies. Both areas have resulted in legal claims and protracted litigation. This occurs with both discrimination and implied contract/wrongful termination claims.
More significantly, in order to comply with the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) and Fair Employment & Housing Act (FEHA), a manager or supervisor may not refuse to hire, promote, train or otherwise provide employment benefits to a job applicant or employee who has a "covered disability," which is even more broadly defined. Covered disabilities can be physical, cognitive, emotional or a combination.
To be protected under the laws, a person must be both disabled and be "otherwise qualified" to do the job. He or she is "otherwise qualified" if able to meet all of the essential requirements of the job with or without reasonable accommodation. In essence, to avoid unlawful discrimination, a manager/supervisor must know what the "essential job functions" are, must be able to ask proper pre-employment interview questions, must be able to enforce work rules, and enforce performance standards in a non-discriminatory way.
One of the essential factors in avoiding discriminatory pre-employment screening is the existence of comprehensive job descriptions. Every manager or supervisor who will be developing a job solicitation or interviewing a prospective employee should thoroughly understand the essential functions of the job, and the standards by which applicants will be evaluated. This process accomplishes several important functions:
The absence of comprehensive, well planned and drafted job descriptions promotes inconsistency and threatens the objectivity of the pre-employment screening process and the enforcement of performance standards. Naturally, there are some "judgments" which a supervisor must make about the way an employee will perform in a given job; particularly when filling a management level position.
Your updated and refined job analyses and job descriptions will assist your managers and supervisors in making appropriate hiring decisions, and managing the hiring and placement process within the applicable legal standards.
They will also form the basis for developing productive and legally enforceable performance management systems. This leads directly to the most significant aspects of establishing measurable performance standards and appropriate methods for managing performance.
For all these reasons, we highly recommend that a detailed Job Description/Job Function Analysis be prepared for each job classification and updated regularly as circumstances change.