How can I determine whether a job description complies with federal and state laws?

August 27, 2015
How can I determine whether a job description complies with federal and state laws?

To comply with federal laws, focus on following the guidelines set by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Most state laws can be explained by visiting your state's Department of Labor website.

Federal Laws:

The EEOC is the primary authority for a variety of federal equal employment laws, including:

The Equal Pay Act of 1963

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964

The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967

Sections 501 and 505 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973

Titles I and V of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990

If your organization is a private employer with more than 20 employees, it is covered by all of the preceding laws. Smaller private organizations may be exempt from some laws, as outlined by the EEOC.

The EEOC doesn't maintain an official primer for how those laws specifically relate to job descriptions, but you can use a resource such as this informal response to a citizen's inquiry to get an idea of how federal laws apply.

Prohibited Discrimination

Federal laws prohibit discrimination in job descriptions for reasons related to these "protected characteristics":

  • Gender
  • Age
  • Nationality
  • Race
  • Genetic information
  • Religion
  • Disability

Exceptions may be made in certain circumstances, such as a job that requires an able-bodied employee to lift 50 lbs. In general, it's advisable to keep your job descriptions as neutral as possible as far as protected classes are concerned.

State Laws

State laws don't overrule federal equal employment laws, but many states have additional regulations to keep in mind. For example, Michigan has its own fact sheet that outlines state-specific anti-discrimination laws. Be sure to check with your specific state laws to ensure compliance.


To make sure your job description complies with federal and state laws, review the information from the EEOC and your state's government website. Don't hesitate to contact them directly if you require additional information.

Helpful Links:

Pre-Employment Discrimination -

State Labor Offices -

Local EEOC Contact Information -


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