When an employee brings a discrimination lawsuit against his employer, the employee’s job description is one piece of evidence that Washington courts will consider. For that reason, well-written job descriptions can help employers defend themselves against discrimination claims.
What Should a Job Description Contain?
Employers should make sure that job descriptions include specific nondiscriminatory criteria to guide employment decisions. Most good job descriptions will have the following:
-An accurate job title
-Essential job functions and physical requirements for those functions
-General responsibilities, key areas of responsibility, and additional job responsibilities
-Qualification standards, including necessary skills, education or credentials
-Performance and attendance expectations
By writing a job description at the very beginning of the hiring process and including the above elements, employers will be able to prevent many different kinds of discrimination claims.
Both the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) and the Washington Law Against Discrimination (“WLAD”) prohibit employers from discriminating against a person because of a disability. However, the law does not require employers to hire someone who does not satisfy the qualification standards or someone who cannot perform essential job functions.
For example, a company is hiring for a Stockroom Manager position. The job description states that candidates must be able to lift up to 50 pounds and must have experience in training forklift operators. Candidate A has a physical disability that limits him to lifting a maximum of 15 pounds. B has a learning disability and has no experience in training forklift operators. C has no disability and meets all of the qualifications and experience requirements. If the employer hires C, the job description is evidence that he did not discriminate against A and B.
Other Forms of Discrimination
The two main forms that workplace discrimination can take are disparate impact and disparate treatment. Disparate impact means that an employer’s rules look nondiscriminatory but actually are harmful to certain groups of people. Disparate treatment means that an employer treats some groups of people differently than others. A good job description can help an employer fight either kind of discrimination claim.
Disparate impact claims can sometimes be based on qualification standards that disproportionately impact a protected class of people. In these cases, employers can defend themselves by showing that the qualification standards are necessary for performing essential job functions. Listing the essential functions on the job description can help employers prove their cases.
One example of a disparate treatment case is an employee who claims that she was fired because of a protected characteristic such as race, gender, or age. When that happens, an employer must prove that the employee was fired for a nondiscriminatory reason, such as performance. If the job description includes the employee’s responsibilities and performance expectations, it can help the employer prove that the employee failed to meet those standards.
Well-written job descriptions are a valuable tool for employers in fighting a discrimination lawsuit. A skilled employment attorney can help with drafting job descriptions or defending a discrimination lawsuit.