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Know Your Rights

The Right to a Complete and Current Job Description


Members and stewards often ask about the collective agreement provisions entitling an employee to a complete and current statement of duties and responsibilities. Most commonly, members query whether their job description accurately reflects the depth or scope of their work. The answer to this question may affect performance evaluations, learning plans or, possibly, classification and remuneration.

A grievance alleging an incomplete or outdated statement of duties is different from one addressing classification issues. Because a job description grievance arises from an alleged violation of the collective agreement, an adjudicator appointed by the Public Service Labour Relations Board has jurisdiction to hear it.

Under the Public Service Labour Relations Act and the Financial Administration Act classification issues are not bargainable. As a result, an adjudicator does not have jurisdiction to hear a classification grievance.

A member’s right to a complete and current statement of duties arises from wording in the collective agreement. Since the grievance alleges a violation of the collective agreement, the onus is on the member to present evidence to demonstrate that work performed on a daily basis is not completely set out in the job description. A member may become aware of this issue in a number of ways:

  • The employer may present the member with a new job description as a result of a re-organization in the work place.
  • A new manager may assess a member in a performance review in a way that is different from previous practice and reflects a different interpretation of the employee’s understanding of the job.
  • Tasks assigned may exceed what has been done in the past, or involve more responsibility or skills.

What kind of evidence is necessary to pursue a job content grievance? Naturally, the starting point is to request the job description and review it carefully. Then, compare the key activities with the activities addressed in the member’s performance evaluation. When reviewing previous performance appraisals, analyse whether the objectives contained in the appraisals fall under the key activities set out in the job description. Do they match? Does one exceed the other? Are they accurate? Over the years, have the manager and member set out a learning plan to meet broader or more specific work objectives? Has the learning plan been followed? The answers to these questions are very helpful in determining the accuracy of the job description.

If, as a result of this analysis, the member feels that the job description is not complete or current, the next step is to obtain feedback from co-workers and managers about the work performed. Does the manager agree that the description is out of date or incomplete? Is there a co-worker doing similar work, with a different description? Is the issue with the job description specific to one employee, or part of a larger problem in the workplace?

A successful job content grievance depends upon the evidence presented. A complete and current statement of duties and responsibilities is a cornerstone to appropriate performance evaluation, career development and remuneration. It is a long-standing right bargained in collective agreements.

Generic Work Descriptions

Many departments rely on generic work model descriptions. The manager may believe that the generic work model description is sufficient to meet the collective agreement requirements of a complete and current job description. The member may disagree.

One such case (2009 PSLRB 50) involved an engineer who grieved his generic work description alleging that it did not completely and accurately describe the work he performed. He provided his performance evaluations, as well as evidence from a co-worker, to support his contention that the work he performed was much more complex and broader than what was delineated in his generic work description.

In his decision, the adjudicator recognized that an employer could satisfy its obligation under the collective agreement to provide a complete and current job description by using a generic work description. However, the engineer had provided enough evidence to show that his generic work description failed to accurately reflect the depth or scope of his work. The adjudicator ruled in the member’s favour, amended the description of some of the key activities, ordered the employer to provide the grievor with the position rating form and ordered the parties to start discussions within 30 days to resolve the details of the work description.

This case illustrates how a job description grievance is presented, the type of evidence called and the kind of remedy an adjudicator may grant. The adjudicator cannot make a determination about classification in a job description grievance. In this case, the adjudicator did not complete the position rating form, nor did he address a monetary settlement.

Contributor: Arlene Francis, BC/Yukon regional office


Publish Date: 01-MAR-2010 09:22 AM