Statement of Purpose
Sometimes individuals 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 academic appointees 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 responsibilities. Across academic units, the University’s goal is to support all academic appointees in ways that will enable them to address their conditions and do their work.
Where to Turn for Assistance
An academic appointee may always voluntarily approach their chair, dean, or the Associate Provost for Faculty 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 Affairs to share observations, concerns, or questions. A chair, dean, or the Associate Provost for Faculty Affairs also may initiate the process.
Supportive members of our community sometimes wish to give a faculty or other academic appointee (OAA) colleague 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 an academic appointee’s condition merits intervention is urged to consult with the individual’s chair, dean, or the Associate Provost for Faculty Affairs.
Contacting the Academic Appointee
In responding to a potentially impaired academic appointee, the University collaborates with Perspectives, its Faculty and Staff Assistance Program, https://humanresources.uchicago.edu/benefits/healthwelfare/sfap.shtml
. Perspectives was hired almost 30 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 Affairs—augmented by other administrators, such as the Deputy Dean, if necessary—will confer to determine an appropriate way to reach out to the academic appointee to initiate a discussion. The initial conversation will aim to identify the concern, illuminate its effects on the person’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, the University will take immediate action, up to and including imposing a mandatory leave and restricted access to University facilities and resources.
When a problem is deemed sufficiently severe, disruptive, or repeated, the University may require a fitness-for-duty evaluation to determine if the academic appointee 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 academic appointees.
To determine if an evaluation is necessary, the academic appointee will be required to schedule promptly an appointment with Perspectives so that it may assess the situation, interview the academic appointee, and initiate the process of obtaining medical records, as appropriate. 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 regarding functional limitations and restrictions, as well as information regarding adherence to any treatment plan or other recommendations, will, however, be communicated by Perspectives to the University officials, as identified above, working on the matter. Based on Perspectives’ evaluation of the academic appointee and the medical records, Perspectives will determine if further evaluation is indicated and, with input from the academic appointee, schedule a fitness-for-duty evaluation, which will be paid for by the University and conducted outside the University. If the academic appointee fails to show up or cancels an appointment without adequate notice, the academic appointee, not the University, must bear any charges incurred.
The physician or other professional providing the evaluation will write a report. The report will not become part of the academic appointee’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 academic appointee to return to their responsibilities and any information necessary to create return-to-work plans and to assess the propriety of any requested reasonable accommodation. The University will determine whether the academic appointee may do so.
If the physician providing the evaluation concludes that the academic appointee is not fit for duty and treatment is recommended, the academic appointee may be obliged to complete the recommended treatment prior to returning to work. While the academic appointee receives treatment, Perspectives will monitor progress, communicate with treatment personnel, and keep the Associate Provost for Faculty Affairs apprised. The costs of treatment will be borne by the academic appointee.
Return to Work
If the physician providing the evaluation concludes that the academic appointee 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 academic appointee and to the University officials working on the matter. These officials will meet with the academic appointee to discuss the return to work, review any terms, and address any remaining questions, all with the goal of a successful return.
If a return-to-work agreement includes a monitoring plan, Perspectives will oversee it. If a return-to-work agreement includes testing, when applicable Perspectives will work with the University to coordinate it. Perspectives will report any non-compliance or relapse to the Associate Provost for Faculty Affairs. The costs of any ongoing treatment and monitoring measures will be borne by the academic appointee.
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.
Effective date: 1 July 2011
Last revised: 25 February 2021