Fitness for Duty Psychological Evaluations

HR Resource
December 19, 2012 — 2,734 views  
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Mental health problems can cause very complex problems for human resource departments. There are some types of employment where mental health problems may pose danger for other employees or the public. In particular, policemen, firemen, mass transit workers, nuclear power plant employees, and people who work in large construction projections cause the most concern. Mental health problems certainly affect other types of industries also, but they may not have the same level of danger. However, staff morale, productivity and the effectiveness of the organization may be hampered by an employee that is disruptive and mentally ill. As the administrator do you have the right to order a psychological exam?

When an employee has a behavior problem that is affecting the workplace it raises difficult problems. Is the employee safe to work under normal conditions? What happens when the employee is put into a stressful situation? Is workplace violence a possibility? How does the Americans with Disabilities Act affect your decision?
The Americans with Disabilities Act covers employers with 15 or more employees. Employers are required to make reasonable accommodations if they know about an employee’s mental illness; however, they do not have to accommodate disabilities if they are not informed. If an employee becomes a problem during the course of their employment, the Americans with Disabilities Act do not prohibit psychological testing.

Tough decisions must often be made in the case of employee problems. Some employees may warrant only a discipline warning, while others may need a fitness for duty evaluations (FFDE). If management suspects that a personality trait, an alcohol or drug problem or a stress disorder is contributing to poor job performance, then a duty evaluation is ordered.

Fitness for duty examinations are conducted by mental health professionals, with training in diagnosing mental states. The psychologist should have background information prior to his evaluation of the employee, including the work history, length of employment, a full job description, performance reviews, disciplinary history and any pertinent health data. Prior mental health data is particularly important.

The psychologist or psychiatrist will conduct a lengthy interview that covers the type of work problem that initiated the FFDE, as well as, the work history prior to the current problem. Every aspect of the employee’s social history will be discussed. The psychiatrist will observe any behavioral abnormalities, evaluate the mental state and discuss current symptoms. The employee’s perception of their ability to return to their job will also be considered and suggestions to improve their work performance will be covered. Objective testing is also completed in a full evaluation.

When the interview and evaluations are complete, a recommendation will be made as to the employee’s suitability to return to their job or if they are unfit.


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