For small businesses written job descriptions may seem more like a hassle than a necessity. However, I would urge you to not only have written job descriptions, but take time to write good job descriptions. Well written job descriptions not only help recruit better employees but can also reduce employment discrimination issues.

A well written job description will outline the essential functions of the position. Listing the essential functions of the job creates consistency in the hiring, evaluating, and disciplining of employees. Outlining the essential functions of the job, as well as any necessary knowledge or skills needed, makes it easier to eliminate prospective employees based on permissible reasons.  Managers will know to evaluate and discipline employees according to an employee’s performance of the essential functions. Employees will recognize that all employees in the same position are being evaluated and disciplined according to the same standards. Consistency, created through the use of essential functions, increases the chance that decisions will be made for permissible reasons.

A well written job description will be free from discriminatory language. The EEOC has provided guidance on what language should be excluded from the job description. Obviously, references to race should never be used in a job description. References to other protected classes, including gender, national origin, religion, and age should be used only if related to a bona fide occupational qualification. The EEOC also advises employers to include requirements that have an indirect effect on protected characteristics only if the requirements are related to the essential functions of the position. For example, unless it is absolutely essential that a person work on Saturday, it would be best to omit that requirement since it may have an indirect impact on persons practicing certain religions from applying for the job.

The Occupational Information Network provides a helpful starting point for creating job descriptions. Talking to employees can also help define and redefine current positions. Remember to review your job descriptions annually to ensure they are current.