A fitness for duty exam certifies than an employee is medically or psychologically able to carry out the duties of a position. “Mental status exam” is another term used to describe a psychological fitness for duty exam. Whether an employer can demand a fitness for duty exam depends on the requirements of the particular job and applicable laws.
Psychological fitness for duty exams are frequently abused by employers as a means of discriminating or retaliating against employees. Dr. Donald Soeken describes how employees can be protected against exam abuses in his book, Don’t Kill the Messenger! How America’s Valiant Whistleblowers Risk Everything in Order to Speak Out Against Waste, Fraud and Abuse in Business and Government. Other resources, including the International Whistleblower Archive, are available on this website to educate workers, attorneys, journalists and mental health specialists.
It is important to keep in mind that laws vary by situation and locality, and may periodically change. If you receive a demand for a fitness for duty exam, it is important that you contact an attorney who can provide up-to-date advice on the requirements and protections that apply in your specific case. In a 2011 video interview for Capital Insider, attorney John Mahoney, of Tully Rinckey PLLC, spoke about fitness for duty exams in the federal government.
It really is the area that I see as being the most abused in terms of potential discrimination. It’s an easy way for an employer to take an employee out of their job duties, especially if the employee is covered by security clearances, and put them on the sideline and force them to fight their way back in by proving that they’re medically fit. And if it does affect a security clearance, it can take a number of months, if not years, for an employee to prove that they’re not a security risk due to their perceived medical disability.