RTW Showcase: Job Classification Tools

Tasha Patterson@Work


Smarter Tools for Classifying Jobs Help When Job Descriptions Are Inadequate

By Kerri Wizner, MPH, CPH


A current, detailed job description is important for managing a disability claim so that cognitive and physical job demands can be utilized to support an employee’s return-to-work (RTW) effort.

Lacking this information can be a serious barrier at almost any point along the effort. When developing work restrictions, transitional duty, or accommodations, job data is critical, and time is of the essence to keep the employee on-track for a timely RTW.

Too many employers don’t fund job descriptions; perhaps they think vendors should pay for this, or the business case for job descriptions is too complex. Whatever the reason, absence professionals too often must find ways to facilitate RTW efforts with an outdated job description, or nothing at all.

When that happens and employers don’t have the ideal of annually updated job descriptions, how do they keep moving forward toward RTW? Federal agencies provide data based on extensive occupational research that can give case managers surprisingly detailed job demands. These tools provide an excellent basis for informed conversations with the employee to plan RTW.

Classifying jobs into general categories is often a first step to understanding an employee’s activities at work, such as the amount of weight they need to lift or the amount of sitting or walking at the worksite. The Dictionary of Occupational Titles (DOT)1 by the U.S. Department of Labor is commonly used to classify jobs.

This standardized occupational information was first published in 1939 to support job placement activities and contained information on more than 17,500 jobs categorized into 550 occupational groups. The most recent version (the 4th edition) was published in 1977, with the last update occurring in 1991. Needless to say, jobs, titles, and their associated activities have changed significantly since then.

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