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Let’s Answer the Age Old Question…Why Do We Need Job Descriptions?

Although job descriptions are not required by Federal or New York State law, a well-written job description that accurately reflects the essential duties of a position can help employers remain compliant with various employment laws, such as the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and various anti-discrimination laws, including Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and the Equal Pay Act.

The purpose of job descriptions is to provide a written definition of the employer’s expectations regarding job standards, to clarify the scope of responsibilities, and to identify the essential functions for each position within the organization.

Job descriptions strengthen and support the following processes:

Recruitment and Selection

  • Identifies knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSAs).
  • Aids in the preparation of job-specific interview questions.
  • Enables the organization to focus on job-related factors when distinguishing among candidates.


  • Provides facts on which to objectively evaluate the worth of each job when establishing pay rates.
  • Provides guidance when benchmarking market value.
  • Provides guidance for determining exempt/non-exempt status for overtime pay requirements under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).

Training and Development

  • Guides new employees in establishing the knowledge needed to perform the job.
  • Assists in identifying future training and development needs.
  • Clarifies developmental paths within the organization.

Performance Management

  • Provides an understanding of the total job for both the employee and the manager.
  • Supports consistency in assessing each employee’s performance against the job duties.
  • Establishes a basis for realistic and fair appraisals.

The following components should be included in each job description: job title, reporting structure, supervisory responsibilities (if applicable), position summary, essential and non-essential functions, minimum education/experience and other KSAs, physical demands and work environment, signature line, and creation/revision date. Refrain from making the job description a wish list and instead focus on the reality of what is needed in order to perform the job successfully.

Job descriptions should also include disclaimers. Disclaimers provide managers leverage to make small changes or additions to job duties in response to changing work demands. A brief disclaimer such as “Performs other related duties as assigned” will prevent employees from stating that a responsibility is not in their current job description. Employees should also sign the job description verifying they have received a copy and can perform the essential functions.

Review each job description at least annually, as well as prior to advertising an opening and any time the job duties change significantly. As with policies and other HR-related documents, a job description will only be helpful to you if it is accurate and maintained regularly.

HR Works, headquartered in Upstate New York, is a human resource management outsourcing and consulting firm serving clients throughout the United States for over thirty years. HR Works provides scalable strategic human resource management and consulting services, including: affirmative action programs; benefits administration outsourcing; HRIS self-service technology; full-time, part-time and interim on-site HR managers; HR audits; legally reviewed employee handbooks and supervisor manuals; talent management and recruiting services; and training of managers and HR professionals.