It is unusual for individuals with or without mental health problems to pose a risk to themselves or others in the workplace. However, because there is the possibility of this happening, the University and outside professional and legislative bodies have developed policies and programs to address immediate health and safety issues.
The University of Michigan has developed the “Fitness for Duty” policy (SPG 201.15) [PDF] to provide a safe work environment for the benefit of all members of the University. It covers “only those situations in which an employee is having observable difficulty performing his/her work duties in a manner that is safe for the employee and for his or her co-workers, or is posing an imminent and serous safety threat to self or others.”
While you should become familiar with the specific terms of the policy, in general it provides that:
- In instances in which there is severe impairment (e.g., unconscious, staggering, incoherent or exhibiting extreme physical symptoms) or violent, verbally abusive or otherwise threatening behavior, call 911 immediately. Attempt to secure the safety of individuals involved as well as yourself. Then call your supervisor and HR.
- If there is a lower or uncertain level of threat (e.g., an employee has slurred speech and an unsteady gait; or an employee makes a reference to self-harm) immediately consult with HR, FASCCO/Michigan Medicine Office of Counseling & Workplace Resilience, or the EHS Drug Testing Officer (if the employee is regulated by the Department of Transportation policy) who will advise you regarding appropriate action. Unless the nature of the situation dictates immediate action, HR must be consulted before any “fitness for duty” evaluation is requested .
Because of patient-care responsibilities in Michigan Medicine, supervisors/leaders of health care professionals must be especially sensitive to changes in an employee’s ability to perform the minimum requirements of their job. If you are a supervisor/leader of patient-care employees, you should become familiar with two University policies: Fitness for Duty[PDF] and Impaired Health Care Practitioner Policy. If you think a staff member involved in patient-care is unable to meet the minimum performance requirements, immediately relieve them of their duties in patient care areas. After having done so, meet with them to explain your actions, complete the “fitness for duty” checklist and advise the employee to go to Michigan Medicine Office of Counseling & Workplace Resilience to arrange for a fitness assessment. If the employee is a physician, consult with the Office of Clinical Affairs before meeting with the employee.
If you supervise an employee whose position requires a Commercial Driver’s License and whose behavior indicates a reasonable suspicion of substance impairment, you should immediately remove them from safety sensitive duty and call the Drug Testing Officer in EHS before addressing your concerns with the individual. The Drug Testing Officer will walk you through the Department of Transportation procedural guidelines.
Remember, your responsibility is to recognize potentially problematic behavior, and to intervene promptly. Not all suspected impairments are due to mental illness or misuse of drugs or alcohol. The health professionals who evaluate the individual following your intervention will determine the factors that may be contributing to the problematic behavior, and will determine the appropriate next steps.
If you have questions about the seriousness of disruptive behaviors, or want assistance preparing to talk with the staff or faculty involved, you are encouraged to consult with the administrator of your area, HR, FASCCO/Michigan Medicine Office of Counseling & Workplace Resilience or the EHS Drug Testing Officer for assistance.