Quick Ref
Handbook Outline

Assistance Policy

A plan for helping faculty and other academic personnel who may not recognize their need for assistance. 

Statement of Purpose

Sometimes individuals who are in need of assistance do not realize or initially accept that they may be impaired and need help. This policy creates a structure to assist non-physician faculty members and other academic appointees (OAA) whose medical or mental health conditions, behavioral problems, or alcohol or other substance abuse problems substantially limit or impair their ability to fulfill one or more of their core faculty or OAA responsibilities. Across academic units, the University’s goal is to support affected faculty members and OAA in ways that will enable them to address their impairments and do their work.

Where to Turn for Assistance

A faculty member or OAA may always voluntarily approach his or her chair, dean, or the Associate Provost for Faculty and Student Affairs and request assistance. Concerned academic colleagues, staff members, or students are also encouraged to contact the chair, dean, or the Associate Provost for Faculty and Student Affairs to share observations, concerns, or questions. A chair, dean, or the Associate Provost for Faculty and Student Affairs also may initiate the process.

Supportive members of our community sometimes wish to give a faculty member or OAA who may be impaired the benefit of the doubt or may be reluctant to speak up about what is often considered a private matter. The University recognizes that addictions, cognitive impairments, and other health issues that adversely affect faculty colleagues, students, staff, or other academic appointees in the workplace are matters that warrant appropriate, respectful, and discreet intervention for the sake of the community as well as for the sake of the impaired person. Therefore, anyone who is unsure if a faculty member or OAA’s condition merits intervention is urged to consult with the individual’s chair, dean, or the Associate Provost for Faculty and Student Affairs.

Contacting the Faculty Member

In responding to a potentially impaired faculty member or OAA, the University collaborates with Perspectives, its Faculty and Staff Assistance Program. Perspectives was hired almost 20 years ago to provide free support, counseling, referrals, and resources for everyone employed by the University.

In consultation with Perspectives, the chair, dean, Associate Provost for Faculty and Student Affairs—augmented by other administrators, such as the Deputy Dean, if necessary—will confer to determine an appropriate way to reach out to the faculty member or OAA in question to initiate a discussion. The initial conversation will aim to identify the concern, illuminate its effects on the faculty member or OAA’s work and workplace conduct, review the procedures for accommodating a disability (if appropriate) or for seeking treatment of substance abuse, detail the options of short-term and long-term disability leaves (if appropriate), and discuss next steps (which may include those detailed below). In the event of an emergency situation, the University will take immediate action, up to and including imposing a mandatory leave and restricted access to University facilities and resources.

Evaluation

When a problem is deemed sufficiently severe, disruptive, or repeated, the University may require a fitness-for-duty evaluation to determine if the faculty member or OAA is able to perform the essential functions of the position with or without reasonable accommodation. Depending on the particular position, research, teaching, service, clinical, and/or administrative duties are considered the essential job functions for all faculty members and OAA.

To determine whether or not an evaluation is necessary, the faculty member or OAA will be required to schedule promptly an appointment with Perspectives so that they may assess the situation, interview the faculty member or OAA, and initiate the process of obtaining medical records. Perspectives will receive the medical records if indicated; the University will not receive the medical records, nor will these records become part of any University record. Relevant medical information will, however, be communicated by Perspectives to the University officials, as identified above, working on the matter. Based on Perspectives’ evaluation of the faculty member or OAA and the medical records, Perspectives will determine if further evaluation is indicated and, with input from the faculty member or OAA, schedule a fitness-for-duty evaluation, which will be paid for by the University and conducted outside the University.

The physician or other professional providing the evaluation will write a report. The faculty member or OAA will have access to the report. The report will not become part of the faculty member’s or OAA’s University record. The University will not receive a copy of the report. Rather, Perspectives will receive and evaluate the physician’s report, and advise the University about the readiness of the faculty member to return to faculty responsibilities. The University will determine whether the faculty member may do so.

Treatment

If the physician providing the evaluation concludes that the faculty member is not fit for duty and treatment is recommended, the faculty member may be obliged to complete the recommended treatment prior to returning to work. While the faculty member receives treatment, Perspectives will monitor progress, communicate with treatment personnel, and keep the Associate Provost for Faculty and Student Affairs apprised. The costs of treatment will be borne by the faculty member.

Return to Work

If the physician providing the evaluation concludes that the faculty member is fit for duty (following the process described under Evaluation, the physician may qualify that conclusion by recommending restrictions, conditions, accommodations, treatment, and/or monitoring. Perspectives will convey the physician’s recommendation to the faculty member or OAA and to the University officials working on the matter. These officials will meet with the faculty member or OAA to discuss the return to work, review any terms, and address any remaining questions, all with the goal of a successful return.

Monitoring

If a return-to-work agreement includes any monitoring or testing, Perspectives will be responsible for conducting it. Perspectives will report any non-compliance or relapse to the Associate Provost for Faculty and Student Affairs. The costs of any ongoing treatment and monitoring measures will be borne by the faculty member or OAA.

Related Policies 

Depending on the nature, duration, and severity of impairment, the circumstances that invoke the processes described in this policy may also be addressed by the University’s short- and long-term disability policies, leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act, and/or require reasonable accommodation of a disability as required by law. For additional information, please see the Leaves section of the Faculty Handbook.