Is It Illegal to Post an Inaccurate Job Description?

September 21, 2016

Job Descriptions

Have you ever left your job and moved your family across the country for a job that doesn’t live up to its description? Unfortunately, many people have. In some cases, either the job offer or the company itself collapses. In others, the actual job turns out to have nothing in common with the job that was offered. Entire lives can be ruined this way. Why? Once the decision to leave previous employment has been made, it can very difficult for people to return. This is why accurate job descriptions are so important.

What Do Job Descriptions Include?

Descriptions (typically used when advertising for vacant positions) are how many potential employees learn about potential compensation. They are the basis on which job performance will be judged. A job description will contain the position title, the title of the supervisor, the date from which the position was advertised, a summary of the position, the work likely to be involved, the skills required and expected, and any other relevant considerations.

What if the Description is Inaccurate?

While a job description normally includes information about the position, job duties, reporting structure, salary and promotional opportunities, there is no law that requires the description to be accurate. After all, a job posting is a form of advertising and there is some subjectivity in its interpretation.

What is Illegal?

This is not to say that job descriptions are irrelevant. There are various statutes that could potentially provide the grounds for legal action based on the content of job descriptions. For example, The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) requires that employers pay workers overtime if they’re non-exempt and have worked more than 40 hours in a week. Whether or not the employee should be considered exempt could be proven by the job description’s summary of the functions necessary to carry out the work. In addition, an inaccurate job description could breach the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) if the actual job fails to provide reasonable accommodations for the physical and mental limitations of an individual with a disability. And, of course, job postings seeking candidates of a particular race or sex would be very relevant in a case where discrimination is alleged.

Again, posting an inaccurate job description is in itself not technically illegal. However, the content of a job posting or job description can be relevant to a legal claim. Public employees who are protected by a merit system or classification system can be entitled to certain pay and benefits according to the classification system. However, as most jobs are at-will, the employer is able to argue that an employee could be fired at any time after starting work, and deny knowledge of any problems when they began the hiring process.

Potential employees can make efforts to avoid problems before they begin by keeping copies of the job description, verifying it with the potential employer, and keeping records of conversations and emails. Taking these steps could ensure that the actual job continues to line up with job description.

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