One upshot of the economic downturn was that many employees saw their jobs change and grow. There may be fewer bodies out there, but the work still has to get done. In a lot of cases, that means job descriptions are out of date and inaccurate. And that could be prime fodder for a lawsuit.
For example, if an employee is classified as exempt, but is now doing some non-exempt work, a lawsuit could be on the way, said Attorney Sandra Rappaport. "In this age of downsizing and job consolidation, even your best, most complete job descriptions have likely become outdated." she said, "And outdated job descriptions are a plaintiff's lawyer's best friend."
Rappaport, a partner at the San Francisco office of law firm Hanson Bridgett, LLP, said that many employers don’t realize that it’s what an employee does that matters, not the person’s job title: “Someone called a ‘manager’ may not be an exempt employee,” she said. “Exempt workers who perform too many nonexempt duties may not be exempt.”
With employers around the country trying to do more with less these days, that means that once-exempt workers are spending more time on non-exempt duties. And, when the balance tips too far in that direction, you’re required to pay overtime. You could even be on the hook for years of back overtime, depending on how long the misclassification has gone on. “Relying on an old job description and thinking you’re safe is a sure path to disaster," she said.
National Employment Law Update conference Oct. 19-21, at the Venetian in Las Vegas. The workshop will cover:
- Elements that should be included in every job description
- The steps you should take when you create new job descriptions from scratch
- Red flags that could cost you big in a lawsuit
- Why your current job descriptions may not match the way you’re treating employees in terms of overtime pay and benefits—and why you need to fix this, immediately
- How to evaluate whether a given job description tends to indicate exempt or nonexempt status
Attendees will have the opportunity to submit their own job descriptions for exempt/nonexempt review by Rappaport and Moye before the session.
You can read more of Rappaport's job description tips in the HR Daily Advisor.