Evaluating and Eliminating Risk:

Fitness for Duty Examinations and Threat Assessment

HelpPeople has at times been asked to provide “Fitness for Duty” (FFD) assessments for employees. This document will serve as a guideline for what we can and cannot provide within an EAP setting.

Fitness for duty is a special medical evaluation performed to determine if an employee is mentally or physically capable of performing the essential functions of a job without risk of injury to the worker or co-workers. As the workplace becomes more stressful, and an employer’s exposure increases, precautionary steps need to be taken when dealing with potentially volatile situations in the workplace. A Fitness for Duty Examination can be a step toward providing concrete information about an employee’s functioning and their appropriateness for their work environment.

Employers can consider a FFD examination when observing any of the following behavior from employees:

  • Verbal threats of violence
  • Significant difficulty in concentration resulting in a pattern of job errors
  • Significant paranoid verbalization
  • Abusive/violent behavior toward co-workers or customers

Some companies also require a FFD examination when an employee returns from an extended medical leave or if the employee has requested reasonable accommodation for a condition. An employee in a safety sensitive position that exhibits any of the above may also be a candidate for a FFD examination.

The exam is provided by specialized clinicians and may involve both physical and psychological testing. Job site analysis is another key component.

Employee Assistance Program counselors are not trained specifically for FFD examinations and cannot provide this service. What counselors can provide is an employee threat assessment and if warranted, a referral to a provider that can provide the formal examination. If an EAP recommends a FFD, the cost of this service is usually the responsibility of the employer because it involves not only the clinical services, but the generation of a report that can be used by the employer in their return to work decision making process.

HelpPeople counselors are available for telephone consultations to discuss any issue related to a potentially violent incident or other employee behavior that poses a risk to a safe and secure workplace. During the conversation, counselors will help determine the best course of action, making suggestions for what the workplace can do and scheduling an appointment to assess the employee’s behavior. Often times, the service that we provide is helping the employee with anger management. We obtain a release of information to Human Resources or a specific supervisor/manager so that we may report on our assessment. As indicated earlier in this commentary, if a formal FFD examination is a recommendation from our HelpPeople assessment, we will facilitate the referral and stay involved until the FFD report has been returned to you.