QUESTION: I am an administrative assistant working in a real estate office. I love the job but my supervisor doesn't like me and is sometimes overly critical of my work. I'm never sure what she'll find fault with next. She was annoyed today because we ran out of coffee. Why was that my fault? What's wrong here? Is there a legal issue?
ANSWER: It sounds like you may be working without the benefit of a job description. Your duties may seem vague to you.
Today's legal environment necessitates that job descriptions be very specific. Also, federal guidelines and court decisions require that the specific performance requirements of a job be based on valid job-related criteria, not personal likes and dislikes.
Personnel decisions that involve either job applicants or employees and are based on criteria that are vague or not job-related are not acceptable. Even in writing, job descriptions and specifications can still be vague. Managers of small businesses, including real estate offices where an administrative assistant may perform many different job tasks, should have written job descriptions.
Consider suggesting that job descriptions be written. Perhaps you could volunteer for the task yourself. If you do, use statements that are terse, direct and simply worded. Eliminate unnecessary words or phrases. A description for an administrative assistant might include:
1. Answer telephone, route calls and take messages.
2. Monitor refreshment station and maintain inventory of refreshment supplies.
3. Perform clerical duties of photocopying, filing and work processing.
Typically, the sentences that describe job duties begin with a present-tense verb, with the implied subject of the sentence being the employee performing the job. The term "occasionally" is used to describe those duties that are performed once in a while. The term "may" is used in connection with those duties performed only by some workers on the job.
A job description will help both of you better understand the scope and duties of your role as the administrative assistant. In fact, a Policy and Procedures Manual that contains job descriptions could be a real asset. Suggest that your manager seek the advice of an attorney who is familiar with issues of Employment Law before adopting a written manual.
Attorney Sylvia Heldreth is a certified specialist in real estate law. Her office is located at 1215 Miramar St., in Cape Coral.
This article is not intended as specific legal advice to anyone and is based upon facts that change from time to time. Individuals should seek legal counsel before acting upon any matter involving the law.