Here are the dozen reasons to update job descriptions to the reality of the workplace in 2016.

1.    Checklist for Hiring

A well drafted job description should serve as the primary measuring stick in evaluating whether a candidate for employment meets the requirements of the job.  The job description, as a checklist for hiring, should strongly influence the questions asked in the interview process.

2.    Delegation of Duties

Once the candidate is hired, the job description will assist the employee in understanding what duties have been assigned, or in other words, which duties have been delegated.  A clear statement of delegated duties helps employees understand when they have the authority to make decisions, purchase equipment and discipline another employee.

3.    Defines Course and Scope

Through the delegation of duties, the job description also defines the course and scope of employment.  As an employee (agent or official) of a tribal government or its enterprise, working within the course and scope of employment may bring the employee  the protection of the cloak of immunity which protects the tribe from a lawsuit.

4.    Defines Success & Failure

A job description helps employees understand employer expectations so in other words the description defines employee success and failure.  When the workday starts at 8:30 a.m. employees understand that success is appearing at 8:29 and failure means getting to work at 8:31 or later.  By defining success and failure, a clear description is a gift to an employee who strives to meet an employer’s expectations.

5.    Creates a Measuring Stick for Performance Evaluations

Performance evaluations should use an objective criteria for determining whether an employee met, or did not meet, the employer’s defined expectations.  A well drafted job description will assist decision makers in making that assessment.  Of course performance evaluations will take much more than the job description into account in evaluating employee yearly performance, but the job description should be part of that analysis.

6.    Document Exempt and Non-Exempt

Whether the tribal employer must follow the overtime requirements of the Fair Labor Standards Act is an open question, but in those instances where the tribal employer follows these rules, the job description can be a good place to document whether an employee is overtime eligible (non-exempt) or not overtime eligible (exempt).

7.    Document Supervisory & Non-Supervisory

Whether an employee has the legal authority to act for a tribal employer and bind the employer to a contract for example, may in part, be defined by whether the employer has placed the label of administrator, director, manager or supervisor upon the employee.  Clearly defining which employees may make decisions for the employer increases understanding internally and may reduce liability externally.

8.    Address Range of Compensation

A job description may also include details regarding the range of wages or salary allocated to that position.  Since the amount of pay is an ingredient in evaluating whether an employee is exempt or non-exempt from overtime requirements, the pay information on a job description can be useful.

9.    Assist in Application of Preference

Tribal employers utilize various tests in defining tribal and Indian preference (mandatory, minimum qualifications, break-the-tie) so therefore well defined job qualifications are the foundation for following a tribe’s preference rules.

10.    Communicate to Candidates in Recruitment

When job descriptions are available to candidates for open positions, those candidates can make informed decisions as to whether they meet the job qualifications.  This important information may also assist job seekers in better understanding what skills they need to acquire to meet the qualifications in the future.

11.    Reduce liability for Claims

Candidates for an open position may claim that an employer failed to hire them because of a protected class status like gender, religion or national origin (to name a few).  Employers may be forced to respond to these allegations of discrimination.  In responding to these allegations, employers which can provide a business reason for the decision to hire Shirley instead of Jane can defeat the claim of discrimination.  When the job description calls for a minimum of five years experience, and Shirley meets and exceeds that standard but Jane does not, the employer possesses compelling evidence to support the business reason in choosing to hire Shirley and not Jane.  Accordingly, clear job descriptions can assist employers in reducing liability.

12.    Assist in Termination

Whether the employer defines the termination standard as at-will or for-cause, prudent employers have reasons to terminate employees.  Since well drafted job descriptions include a measuring stick for performance, that measuring stick should drive the conversation regarding the termination process.

Recommendation:  Consider modifying the tribe’s job descriptions to generate the benefits set forth above.