Psychological Fitness-for-Duty and Risk Assessment

Essentials for the Employer and the EAP
by David Fisher, Ph.D., ABPP, L.P.

Employee psychological problems can result in unproductive staff, workplace acrimony, and occasionally, even deaths. Further, juries commonly award multimillion dollar judgments against employers who do not take appropriate action regarding impaired or dangerous employees. Consequently, it is imperative that employers and EAPs take reasonable steps to maintain a safe environment and protect staff from the sometimes devastating impact of employees suffering from psychological difficulties.

Employers and EAP professionals can safeguard the workplace with psychological Fitness for Duty (FFD) evaluations and psychological Risk Assessments. They use FFD evaluations to assess employees’ ability to work in the presence of problems such as depression, anxiety, and conflicts with co-workers. Employers and EAPs request Risk Assessments when an employee, because of psychological difficulties, might present a risk of self-harm or danger to others.

David Fisher, Ph.D., ABPP, L.P. — Dr. Fisher supervises psychiatric and psychological Fitness for Duty and Risk Assessments nationwide. As a Diplomate in Clinical Psychology, Dr. Fisher has extensive experience overseeing these assessments, and lectures frequently on this topic.


These evaluations are distinct from EAP mental health assessments, where the evaluating doctor establishes a treating doctor-patient relationship with the employee. A treating doctor, perhaps working through an EAP, might prescribe medications, perform psychotherapy, and give the employee advice. In contrast, FFD exams and Risk Assessments require the doctor to maintain a position of neutrality, and to advocate neither for the employer nor for the employee.

Doctors performing either of these exams typically use a variety of assessment techniques, designed to thoroughly evaluate employees’ behavior within the context of both the work and home environments. This article covers basic knowledge employers and EAP professionals need to best utilize these specialized assessment services.



Journal of Employee Assistance, 4th Quarter, 2003