Response: When You Can Require Counseling for Workers?

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Brent, this used to be less of a problem, but recent case law suggests that requiring counseling now may be the equivalent of requiring a medical examination. This means there can be implications under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Requiring counseling would then have to be “job-related and consistent with business necessity.” 


This new standard could impact missions in two areas. 

  • First, what are their spiritual and moral standards? They may be able to require counseling as a corrective for problems that violate the spiritual and moral standards (which should be clearly defined in advance). 
  • Second, what responsibilities does the mission have to care for people in remote or dangerous areas, both for the individual and for others on the team? This may necessitate requiring counseling, and also should be clearly defined in advance.

As religious organizations, missions are going to have a bit more freedom than secular organizations to require counseling. In many cases, the worker won’t even be able to bring in the ADA because the ministerial exception gives the mission complete discretion over employment decisions. But the wiser approach (and kinder to employees) is to avoid these problems by having consistent and well-implemented policies.


Disclaimer: not official legal or psychological advice or opinion

Because of the generality of the information on this site, it may not apply to a given place, time, or set of facts. It is not intended to be legal advice, and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations