You could frame the idea of “getting help” in two ways. Probably the way we think about this most naturally is the idea of psychological help. Now, I am a huge fan of psychological help, and you know that my family is one of Link Care’s success stories. But if you need “psychological help,” you might or might not have a “medical condition” or a disability of some kind. For instance, in our case, some disabilities in the family were a contributing cause of our issues. But a disability is not always involved, and it can be tricky to figure out whether a person’s problems are or are not linked to disabilities.
Once you start talking about disabilities (or your employee does), you are in the region of ADA issues. Then the rule becomes that the employer can make inquiries about the employee’s state of mind, or can require additional psychological examinations, if there is a need to determine whether the employee can still perform the functions of the job. A problem situation could be where the employee is impaired in functioning, or is a threat of some kind to self or others. Note that just having a psychiatric disability does not per se make you a threat.
So the simple answer is that if the person is having what we used to call in my youth a “nervous breakdown,” you can probably ask questions. There are a couple of interesting points to note here. One is that it is primarily the employee’s responsibility to raise disability as an issue. Another is that the functions of the job are going to depend on what the employer said they were. Did the job description include healthy team functioning, an appropriately modeled Christian family, and appropriate respect for authority? No? Uh-oh!
There is actually a completely different way to approach this whole problem. Because we are talking about religious organizations, remember? From a religious perspective, assuming that you have defined your Scriptural values and goals, you can counsel, correct, encourage, and discipline people for their behavior that needs to come into line with the organization’s religious goals.
For instance, you mention stress, anger, fear, depressed attitude, and avoidance of conflict. These are all spiritual issues (as well), and restoration and renewal can be addressed spiritually. You can require a person to get care to address spiritual issues, without having to address or analyze whether causes related to a disability of some kind. You can also impose consequences for problematic behaviors that are causing spiritual trouble in the organization. If the employee then raises a disability issue, you can respond that of course you are glad to accommodate to help the employee perform job functions with or without accommodation, but you are most focused on the spiritual vision of the organization and the person’s ability to perform as a minister.
This second approach is both more consistent with the actual spiritual vision of the organization, and is harder to challenge legally.
Featured Image: "Mental Health Cloud" by Pixabay.
More articles in this series: Part 1
Disclaimer: not official legal or psychological advice or opinion
- Guest Post: Why Churches Need an Executive Pastor, Part 3
- The Future of the FLSA Overtime Rule
- Employee or Independent Contractor? Answering the Question in the Internet Age
- Is Your Independent Contractor Really an Employee? Take a Closer Look at the Rules
- Church Liability for Failing to Conduct a Mental Fitness Evaluation? A Connecticut Court Lacks Jurisdiction to Decide