In public and private employment settings, employers have the right to ask their employees to attend a Fitness for Duty (FFD) evaluation. For example, an employer may have concern that the state of mind of one employee may be resulting in potentially unsafe conditions for one or more of those in their employ. Being fit for duty means that an employee has no mental, physical, or emotional condition that prevents him or her from performing their essential job duties in a safe, proper, and competent manner.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission designates, “With respect to employees, an employer may ask questions about disability or require medical examinations only if doing so is job-related and consistent with business necessity.”
The ADA, the EEOC, GINA, and HIPAA all provide guidance for the appropriate request and performance of FFD Evaluations. FFD is a specialized evaluation which may be requested due to concerns for:
- An employee’s mental and/or physical health
- Suspicion of alcohol or other psychoactive substance abuse or dependence
- Response to work and non-work-related injuries
- Chronic stress, etc., which cause concern for direct threat of harm to the employee or one or more employees in the employment environment
- Abrupt or gradual changes in work performance, attendance, cognitive factors, behavior, and/or reliability
- Threats and/or acts of workplace violence
The FFD evaluation is an unbiased examination, with the evaluator being a mediator with the employee, employer, and relevant medical professionals (e.g., the employee’s family physician, counselor, etc.). The FFD evaluation yields an ADA compliant report including determinations of safe return to work with or without accommodations, referral to a specialist and/or EAP for further evaluation, recommendations, and intervention, or determination that an employee is unsafe to return.