Part 1: Fitness for Duty and Mental Health

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While perusing a recent article “Rock and a [Softer] Hard Place: Seventh Circuit Eases The Burden for Accommodating Employees with Mental Health Disabilities” (disclosure: I don’t normally follow legal cases, unless Theresa sends me the link and says “LOOK!”), I learned that a recent court decision helps employers manage the often difficult ADA issues around getting employees to be medically and psychologically evaluated.

From the Synopsis: “Complying with the ADA, particularly when an employee has a mental health-related disability, can be challenging. Fortunately, a recent decision out of the Seventh Circuit provides helpful guidance for employers struggling to accommodate employees with mental health issues while at the same time maintaining safe and productive workplaces. The decision makes clear that in the appropriate circumstances, employers can require an employee to undergo a mental health examination as part of a fitness-for-duty test. The decision—and the New Year—also provides a good excuse for employers to evaluate their ADA policies and procedures.”1

Theresa – I have a couple of questions:

1. Can you give us an escalator summary of this decision and how it applies to missions?

2. Historically at Link Care, we used to take referrals of missionaries who were forced to get counselling or they would be terminated. We actually were quite successful at helping those who were ambivalent to recognize their need for help, and to benefit from our services. Most of them! But, a dozen years ago we changed our stance and don’t encourage these forced referrals anymore. Why? A couple of reasons. First, we didn’t like the coercive, and therefore destructive, atmosphere it created for some people. Second, we wanted people to have a more workable relationship with their mission before they came in, rather than spend a fair bit of our time trying to change their attitudes. A third reason was that some of these folks beat our staff up pretty badly. Not physically, but emotionally, etc. People still come with some degree of ambivalence, but not nearly as much as before. My question to you has to do with trying to understand when a referral is from need for debriefing, processing, growth, and when it becomes a fitness-for-duty issue. Any thoughts?


1 John P. Phillips, Rock and a [Softer] Hard Place: Seventh Circuit Eases the Burden for Accommodating Employees with Mental Health Disabilities, Seyfarth Shaw LLP (January 9, 2018),

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