Thursday, March 24, 2011

And All Other Duties As Assigned

And all other duties as assigned” – how many times have you seen that phrase on a job description?  It’s a wonderful catch all item many organizations use on a job description as a “free pass” to allow them to assign whatever duties they want to, to various jobs.
These days every organization is downsizing and right sizing and trying to be as lean as possible.  One of the ways they are doing this is by restructuring jobs which may include adding duties, merging responsibilities or changing employee driven processes.  This means that the duties and responsibilities listed on position “x’s” current job description may not be an accurate description of the actual work they are doing. 
There are a lot of reasons to have job descriptions.  Job descriptions help in recruiting and retaining qualified and competent employees, they help in performance management and evaluating the work of your employees, and they assist you in treating employees fairly and consistently.  Finally, if you are ever misfortunate enough to have a Department of Labor audit or a law suit filed against you – a detailed, up to date job description may just keep you out of hot water.
I recently had a client tell me “we don’t need job descriptions; we’re not a big corporation.”  No matter how large or small your company is, I say “oh yes you do.”  There is no specific law that requires job descriptions, but I believe in the rule of “if it’s not documented, it wasn’t done.”  So if you don’t have the essential job functions and responsibilities of each job position written down, how do you know for sure it gets done?  If you don’t have a written job description and want to re-assign duties, how do you know that the new duties are something the people in the position getting the new duties have the knowledge or skill to accomplish?  And can they do it at an acceptable level of performance?  And by changing the job duties, does that change the title, the exempt or non-exempt status, or the salary range for that job?  There are lots of things to consider when trying to go “lean”.
The Chamber recently added some links to various HR tools that make it easier to write a job description.  (You can find all the tools by clicking on the “Doing Business” section then selecting Business Tools, then Employer Relations on the Chamber’s website.)  One link will take you to the Department of Labor’s Career One stop site that can help you develop a new job description or revise an out of date one.  It’s free and is a fairly easy tool to use.  Before you get started, you will want to have a general idea of the job tasks, work activities and experience and skill required for each job.  When you are finished you can save it as a Word document so that you can have the manager or supervisor and/or your HR expert review to make sure all essential items were included and the knowledge, skill and abilities as well as educational and experience requirements are listed as minimum requirements and not embellished.  When it is finalized, be sure to review it with the effected employees.
Because one person’s definition of “other duties as assigned” can vary, make your job descriptions as specific as is practical.  Get the employees doing the job involved either through a questionnaire or face to face meeting, so you get a true picture of the work tasks that are performed by that job class.  Don’t go overboard with a 5 page job description, but do more than just scribble a couple of bullet points on the back of a napkin.
Add reviewing or developing job descriptions on your HR Spring Cleaning list today.

Fun Times With Medical Marijuana

April 13th is fast approaching.  This will be the day when Medical Marijuana will become legal in the state of Arizona.  Why should an employer care?

Arizona will be the first state enacting a Medical Marijuana law that provides an element of protection for employees, thereby limiting an employer's options to enforce their own policies and practices in the workplace.  Currently an Arizona employer who has a policy against drug use in the workplace and who also tests applicants post-offer and wants to deny employment if there is a positive result is well within their right to do so.

After April 13th, if the applicant is certified as a Medical Marijuana user or a caregiver of a Medical Marijuana user - or also works at a Medical Marijuana dispensary, this will no longer be the case.  You can't deny them employment just based on a positive drug test if they meet the above criteria.

Also in the near future, those certified as Medical Marijuana users, caregivers or dispensary employees can only be terminated if they violate other provisions of your drug policy - not simply if they fail a drug test.

That is why it is even more important than ever that employers have policies against possession of drugs in the workplace or the use of drugs during working hours.  Only if you can prove serious impairment will you be safe to do so.  I'm predicting that proving impairment is going to be challenged in the courts for many months to come.

So what can you do to protect yourself?

First, make sure your policies are worded specifically and communicated well to all employees.  Be sure to include the right to inspect any possessions brought into the workplace by employees.  If you emphasize your right to inspect possessions and put employees on notice, you'll have some protection and be more likely to prevail if taken to court.  Second, train your employees and supervisors on the requirements of this new law.  Finally, be ready to enforce your policies to ensure a safe workpalce for all - you, your employees and your customers.

Have fun!  It should be interesting!