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.
The EEOC is the primary authority for a variety of federal equal employment laws, including:
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.
Federal laws prohibit discrimination in job descriptions for reasons related to these "protected characteristics":
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 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.