I have had two separate discussions this week involving job titles, job descriptions, and when employees are required to do jobs that are outside of their “specific” job title – but still essential job demands of their overall “job title”. During both discussions, a key detail to the “specific” job title in question was that the specific job title falls under a much broader category.
I try to avoid sports analogies when meeting with clients because they can sometimes be cliché, especially depending upon the setting. However, a recent Phillies game went into extra innings and became a great example of the situation that both clients were questioning. While we refer to most major league baseball players by the position that they play, the overall job title that applies to them is baseball player. During this extra inning game, the Phillies manager had to make some adjustments in the 13th inning (not really different than unplanned overtime) which included moving an outfielder to pitching and having a pitcher play in left field. While not uncommon, moves like this don’t happen in every extra inning game. What made this game memorable is that Vince Velasquez, the pitcher who was placed in left field, made two highlight worthy throws to throw runners out. Each of these players were moved from their “normal” job to a different job, but still under the same title, and were able to fulfill their role – well maybe not for the outfielder who pitched because the Phillies lost the game.
We have several clients that use a system similar to this, in that when a person applies for a position with the company, they will apply for Job Title “A”. For these clients, Job Title “A” will have several sub-titles or location areas that the employee may be directed to work within after company specific training. They may have been hired with experience in other sub-titles or locations but these companies, much like the military, will place these new employees where they have a demand. One of the companies uses a title of Mechanical for the position. Those within the Mechanical position may work in carpentry, plumbing, electrical, rigging, welding, etc. While an employee may be placed in one of these areas dependent upon company needs, they are all trained to be able to perform the tasks of mechanical employees so that when the need arises they can fill that particular need. On the public sector side of this issue, we have seen similar job descriptions that require staff of public works departments or the buildings and grounds department within a school district have to be able to perform multiple roles as needed.
Cross job utilization can allow for companies to identify modified duty accommodations that an employee may be able to fill, help to spread out overtime over a larger group of employees if an individual employee is injured or ill, and allows some employers to reduce the amount of different job titles that they need to perform post-offer pre-employment tests for – if the job demands to be able to perform across multiple roles can be demonstrated to be an essential demand.
** Of note for the diehard baseball fans, prior to these highlight reel throws Vince Velasquez was famous for throwing out a runner using his left arm after being struck in the right arm by a 96 mph line drive during the 2018 season.
Sporting events with storied traditions are not typically the settings for learning new lessons in the world of essential demands for job positions. However, the 2018 US Open is a great lesson for employers in reviewing both their “essential job demands” as well as their post-offer physical abilities testing process.
Each of the four tennis Grand Slam tournaments has their own specific styles – Wimbledon has grass courts and white tennis outfits, the French open is a demanding tournament due to its clay surface, the Australian Open has hard surfaces like the US Open, but the roof can be closed so play can continue during inclement weather, and the US Open is played on a hard court surface. Until this year, the US Open had one unique functional difference from its three peers – ball boys and girls were required to be able to throw the ball overhand across the court, accurately, to their peers when balls were needed. In the other three tournaments, the ball is rolled across the courts, underhand. The US Open is also the only Grand Slam tournament that allowed adults over the age of 18 to apply as a ball boy or girl.
This year, the US Open determined that by changing the essential demand for this exchange of tennis balls on the court from throwing to rolling, it would open the applicant pool to a broader base of applicants. The US Open has not attributed the change to a decrease in the number of applicants with a strong enough throwing arm and adequate throwing accuracy but to a desire to increase the applicant pool to include those who may not have been able to be applicants due to this singular demand but meet all of the other demands. This change marks an end to a several decades long tradition of throwing the tennis balls.
But, was it truly an essential demand to begin with? Not necessarily. As has been mentioned, most tournaments are able to function adequately with the balls being rolled across the courts. It was an entertaining method of performing the task, but changing the method does not reduce the completion of the end result – the ball gets from one side of the court, whether it is rolled or thrown.
What essential job tasks do you have that may have another method or technique for being performed that does not impair (either from a safety or a financial hardship aspect) the end result of the job task? If this task is changed to an alternate method, have you accurately modified your post-offer physical abilities tests or the job demands description that are utilized during treatment and return to work testing?
“You can arrive at your dream a lot of different ways, but you also arrive there as a different version of yourself based on whatever pathway you choose.” – Joanna Gaines
Post-offer physical abilities testing is something that should really be straight forward. Testing based on the minimum essential postural and physical demands for the position that has been offered to the candidate. Seems pretty simple, the candidate either meets or does not meet the minimum essential demands. But, it isn’t always that simple because the process involves people.
When a candidate fails a post-offer physical abilities test, the employer has to choose what path they will take. Some employers may look to see if the candidate’s abilities meet the demands of different position. Other employers may offer the candidate the opportunity to repeat the test at a later date. Some employers may choose to not re-test.
One of the employers that we work closely with allows candidates to work on improving in the areas in which they did not meet the demands and attempt the test again with the next new hire class. This particular employer has a fairly high passing rate (which is due to a phenomenal hiring process by the employer that helps to make sure that the demands of the position are consistently reinforced during every contact with the candidate), so the number of candidates who do not meet the demands is fairly low. Of those that do not meet the demands on the initial test, some come back to test again. It is a good job with solid benefits and is worth the time and effort for these candidates to try again. Nearly everybody who re-tests comes back physically stronger and with improved range of motion and physical abilities and passes the test. Many comment that not meeting the demands on the initial test was a significant wake-up call about their previous level of fitness. They wish they were able to start the jobs with their original classmates but they are also content with the fact that they have not only done what was required to earn the job but have made lifestyle changes that will benefit them for years to come. We don’t mind repeat tests for this employer as we know most candidates return, changed for the better.
Recently, we had a second test for a candidate from a different employer. This candidate’s scenario was much different. It was the first post-offer failure for the employer and it was a result of lack of medical treatment for an auto-immune disorder that attacked the candidate’s upper extremities in a way that did not allow the candidate to meet the minimum essential demands. The employer did not have alternative positions with decreased physical demands to offer. As the candidate had not yet received treatment for their condition, we suggested to the employer (along with the instruction of talking to their lawyers) that if the candidate has a change in physical function due to treatment that they be re-tested.
When this candidate was scheduled for a second test, I was unsure of what to expect. Luckily, the candidate returned with significantly improved function due to appropriate medical treatment and they were able to meet the minimum essential postural and physical demands of the position. The candidate told us that as a result of not meeting the demands for a position, they realized that they needed to become more proactive with their physician in seeking a successful treatment regimen for their condition. For this candidate, not only did they obtain the position they wanted on the second test, they were able to become a successful advocate for their own healthcare status and understand the importance of that in keeping their condition in check.
In each of these success cases, the post-offer candidates arrived at Point B – meeting the demands and obtaining the position – but they also arrived at Point B as improved versions of themselves with better fitness and abilities, and in the second case a better advocate for their own healthcare.