Q&A: Catch-all language in job description not much help in ADA defense
Question: Is it okay to have the language “other duties as required” in a job description?
Answer: Sure, it’s common to include that catch-all language in a job description. However, you shouldn’t rely on that language to incorporate regular duties that are important for the particular job. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), an employer is required to make a reasonable accommodation that would allow an employee to perform an “essential function” of their job. It may be difficult to argue that a task is an “essential function” if it’s not more specifically incorporated in the job description. In a recent case an administrative assistant was asked to help with payroll. Her job description didn’t mention payroll duties, but did say workers in that job had to “perform additional assignments per supervisor’s direction.” The stress of working on payroll exacerbated her disability and she requested a short break from that assignment as an accommodation. The employer insisted that the work was an important part of her job, and refused to change her assigned tasks. Now a jury will get to decide if the work was an “essential function” despite it not being specifically included in her job description (Conklin v. Hawbaker Engineering, LLC, MD Penn, Oct. 2019).
Make sure that your job descriptions accurately reflect all of the work that an employee is required to perform. Thorough job descriptions help employers with recruitment, performance management, salary reviews, and ADA accommodation requests as well as many other aspects of the employment relationship. And once you have job descriptions, make sure that they stay up to date with periodic reviews. Vigilant members have access to a job description database where you can customize your descriptions, using standard templates as a starting point. Log in to our member website, scroll down to the “HR Compliance Library,” and once you’re in there, look under “Tools” to access “Job Descriptions and Performance Reviews by HRTMS.”