As a board-certified police and public safety psychologist with over 20 years of experience, Dr. Jordan offers unparalleled service to those seeking Fitness for Duty Evaluations (FFDE) in the Denver area as well as throughout the state of Colorado.
Contact Dr. Jordan to make an appointment at his Denver office for a Fitness for Duty assessment.
Most importantly, during the initial consultation I will review the circumstances of the referral to determine if a fitness exam is appropriate. If you are in human resources, we can review the pros and cons of using a fitness exam to ensure compliance with the ADA and EEOC.
If you are seeking a fitness exam as part of the hiring process for a law enforcement agency, I can answer any questions you may have. Because my scheduling is flexible, I may be able to accommodate your current work schedule. Finally, I will ensure that your report gets delivered on-time to the hiring agency you specify.
• Fitness for weapons-carrying positions
• Evaluations for incumbent employees
• Return to work
• Disability Determinations
• Risk assessments
“A psychological FFDE is a formal, specialized examination of an incumbent employee that results from (1) objective evidence that the employee may be unable to safely or effectively perform a defined job, and (2) a reasonable basis for believing that the cause may be attributable to a psychological condition or impairment. The central purpose of a FFDE is to determine whether the employee is able to safely and effectively perform his or her essential job functions.”1 In layman’s terms, the FFDE is a forensic evaluation to help the employer understand a performance problem that involves the mental health of an employee. It’s also a decision-making tool to help you decide what to do next.
In short, when you have documented performance problems at work (complaints, declining productivity, absenteeism, mistakes, accidents, threatening behavior, acting out, etc. ) AND you believe the employee has a psychological impairment (depression, substance abuse, anxiety, anger issues, etc.) it is time to consider a Fitness for Duty evaluation. More importantly, if you feel threatened or concerned that an employee may hurt him or herself, or is in a position to cause harm to the public, call for a consultation. A pre-referral conference is an important first step to explore the legal, clinical and forensic questions of a FFDE. If you decide to proceed with a FFDE, be prepared to provide comprehensive documentation and records for the employee in question.
Finally, there is significant difference between therapy with a mental health provider and an evaluation by a FFD evaluator. The two couldn’t be more different. Even though a FFD evaluator will likely be a mental health practitioner, he or she is NOT providing services to the individual being evaluated. The FFD evaluator is a highly trained evaluation expert who is evaluating the employee in a scientific and impartial manner. Don’t expect the FFD evaluator to “fix” your employee. In contrast, a therapist (who is also a mental health practitioner) is functioning in the role of “helper” and can be expected to advocate for his or her patient. Don’t expect the employee’s therapist to give you a fair and impartial determination regarding the employee’s psychological fitness to continue working.
What are the advantages of utilizing a Fitness for Duty Evaluation?
- As the employer, you’re going the extra mile to insure the safety of your workplace, the public and the well-being of the employee. By requesting the opinion of an outside, third party professional, an organization illustrates it is invested in resolving the problem. You will also be helping the employee to understand what’s going on and (in some cases) what restorative options are available.
- If an employee is acting in a threatening manner, the FFDE allows you to address this in a constructive manner that increases the safety for all involved. Direct threats, veiled threats or escalating anger and lack of emotional control will normally trigger an immediate FFDE.
- By requiring the employee to undergo a FFDE, you are taking steps to mitigate any potential harm the employee might bring to him or herself, your other employees and the public.
- By ensuring a healthy workforce, you’re taking the burden off the other employees who would otherwise have to “pick up the slack.”
- If the employee has a psychological condition that has become progressively worse (i.e., early onset dementia, depression, etc.) the FFDE will document this. If the individual later applies for disability, the FFDE may (with proper authorization and in accordance with HIPAA regulations) be used to help the individual receive benefits.
- Are you subject to the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 (OSHA)? If so, you are required to maintain a workplace free from recognized hazards that might result in death or serious injury. FFDE’s are one avenue through which you can satisfy OSHA requirements.
- If you need to terminate someone’s employment because he or she can no longer perform the essential job functions, having a FFDE that supports your decision is essential. Documentation and an expert opinion may also help ward off claims of wrongful discharge.
When should I NOT use a Fitness for Duty Evaluation?
- Do not use a FFDE if the employee’s work performance is adequate. An FFDE qualifies as a medical exam. Employees may view this as intrusive.
- Don’t use a FFDE as a substitute for discipline. If someone is habitually coming in late and acting in an uncooperative manner, that’s likely an administrative issue and should dealt with through corrective action. Remember, being late and having a bad attitude is not evidence of a psychological impairment.
- Don’t use a FFDE as a form of discipline. Requiring an employee to undergo a FFDE is critical decision. NEVER use a FFDE as a way to “teach someone a lesson.”
- Don’t use a FFDE for people who went out on Family Medical Leave Act and are now returning UNLESS their pre-FMLA behavior clearly warrants the exam. Clear documentation would be essential in such cases.
- Don’t use a FFDE as a substitute for coaching or mentoring, and don’t use it as a way to hasten someone’s departure from the organization.
What happens after the Fitness for Duty Evaluation?
- Without a doubt, the FFD report constitutes Personal Health Information (PHI) as defined by HIPAA. Therefore, strict confidentiality must be maintained and the physical report must be kept in a secured location that is separate from the employee’s personnel file.
- Assuming the employee is cooperative with the FFD evaluator, the report will clearly state if the employee can (or cannot) perform his or her essential job functions. In some cases, there may be a discussion about accommodations that would enable the individual to continue in the position.
- If the report does not support the existence of a psychological impairment (employee is fit for duty), you would likely handle the matter through other methods such as disciplinary action, retraining, remedial education or reassignment to another shift or position.
- If the employee is not fit for duty, and cannot perform essential job functions (i.e., the individual’s depressive symptoms preclude performing essential job duties), the employer may explore restorative options such as FMLA leave to seek treatment. If a work-related injury contributed to the employee’s lack of fitness, disability may be an option. In some cases, the employee will be asked to resign or employment will be terminated.
- Though infrequent, your FFD evaluator may need to refer the employee to a different specialist such as neuropsychologist, endocrinologist, medical doctor, etc.
- An employee who is found to be unfit for duty may seek treatment to ameliorate his or her psychological impairment. If the organization chooses to consider re-hiring this individual, a return-to-duty evaluation is a wise choice to protect the employer’s interests as well as the safety and welfare of all who are involved.
What happens if I just do nothing?
Doing nothing can come back on you, especially within the field of law enforcement and public safety. The courts have already established that:
- Police Departments have the right to order an employee to a FFDE when appropriate (Conte v. Horcher).
- A police department that allowed an officer to stay on the job despite his mental instabilities was financially responsible for his violent actions (Bonsignore v. City of New York).
- Requesting a FFDE preemptively is an acceptable course of action in order to protect others from harm. In fact, the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) “does not …require a police department to forego a fitness for duty examination to wait until a perceived threat becomes real, or questionable behavior results in injury” (Watson v. City of Miami Beach).
- In Crocka v. City of Chicago, the court supported the use of FFDE when the department learned that an officer was depressed and taking psychotropic medication. The officer responded by saying that the FFDE was an ADA violation but the court disagreed.
- In addition, the courts have generally supported the use FFDE in cases involving: threats of physical harm, accusations of excessive force, domestic violence, excessive absenteeism, rapid variations in mood, allegations of sexual misconduct, and concerns about emotional stability following a critical incident.
1 International Association of Chiefs of Police, Police Psychological Services Section, 2009.
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