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January 13, 2005
How Current Are Your Job Descriptions?

As the economy picks up steam and hiring activity increases, it's particularly important for employers to take the time to update their organizations' job descriptions, especially in light of new Fair Labor Standards Act regulations governing who is eligible for overtime.

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"I've never run into anyone who has admitted liking to write job descriptions," says Martin Simon, legal editor at and "But these tools, sometimes called position descriptions, are critical to effective and legal human resource administration."

Employers typically use job descriptions to drive recruitment campaigns, set expectations for new workers, establish salary grade levels for groups of jobs, and align individual goals and activities with an organization's strategic objectives. A good job description follows a simple but consistent format that describes key roles played by that job, as well as "essential functions." A job description must be in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

ADA compliance is one standard when creating job descriptions, "but it's in the area of compliance with the FLSA's new overtime regulations where job descriptions have increased in importance," says Simon. "If written correctly, the job description should clearly list the skills required. Using the duties in that document, along with salary data and knowledge of the new overtime regulations, it should be easy to substantiate to the Department of Labor (DOL) that a job be considered exempt or nonexempt from overtime."

The DOL goes further on this point: "The exempt or nonexempt status of any particular employee must be determined on the basis of whether the employee's salary and duties meet the requirements of the regulations."

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