NOTE: This Instruction supersedes Electronic-District Personnel Manual (E-DPM) Instruction No. 20B-5, Procedures for Fitness-for-Duty Medical Examination, dated January 3, 2011.
The District of Columbia government is committed to providing a safe and secure workplace for its employees. To this end, employees must be able to perform their duties in a safe, secure, productive, and effective manner. This issuance provides guidance on the District’s policy and procedures for employee fitness for duty (FFD) assessments where there is an objectively reasonable concern about an employee’s continuing ability to perform the essential functions of their position.
Fitness-for-Duty medical evaluations may also be requested for applicants during the post-employment offer phase in addition to instances where employees are returning from extended medical leave. These examinations are limited to certain circumstances and must comply with applicable requirements. For more information about medical evaluations related to these scenarios, please contact email@example.com.
Each District government employee must be able to carry out the essential duties and responsibilities of their position. This means that all employees must meet any established physical or mental standards necessary for them to perform the essential functions of their position, with or without reasonable accommodation(s).
Concern about an Employee’s Ability to Perform their Essential Functions
An employee who occupies a position with established physical or mental requirements may be required to undergo a medical evaluation whenever there is an objectively reasonable concern about their continued ability to meet the established physical or mental requirements of the position. Even if physical or mental health requirements have not been established for a position, an employee may be required to undergo a medical evaluation when there is a reasonable concern as to their continuing ability to physically or mentally carry out the essential functions of their position.
Employees may also be required to undergo a medical evaluation when their work-related conduct or performance raises concerns relating to their own health or safety or the safety of others.
Prior to submitting an FFD request to DCHR, an employee’s supervisor or manager must work with the agency’s HR advisor to prepare detailed documentation regarding the employee’s deteriorating behavior or performance. This documentation may include:
- Performance evaluations and improvement plans;
- Notice(s) of counseling or corrective action (if any); and
- Any other relevant employee records or documents.
If there is enough evidence to support an objectively reasonable concern about the employee’s physical or mental ability to perform their essential functions, the agency HR advisor, in consultation with agency General Counsel, should submit an FFD request to DCHR in accordance with the section below. If approved, the cost of the medical evaluation shall be the responsibility of the agency.
NOTE: While an FFD is an appropriate tool in response to reasonable concerns about an employee’s continuing ability to perform the essential functions of their position, it should not be used as a measure of first resort. Instead, when there is concern about an employee’s ability to perform their essential duties, agencies should first meet with the employee and articulate their objective concerns, and determine if there is anything the agency can provide the employee to assist them in performing their essential duties. Agencies should not perceive the employee as disabled or assume the performance or conduct concerns are the result of a disability. However, if the employee provides information that elicits the Americans with Disabilities Act, the agency should engage in the ADA interactive process with the employee.
NOTE: FFD assessments are not broad physical evaluations of an employee. FFDs are limited to evaluating the capacity of an employee to perform the essential functions of their position.
Submission of FFD requests to DCHR
FFD examinations may only be authorized by the personnel authority. Agencies shall submit fitness-for-duty evaluation requests to DCHR as follows:
- Prepare a request packet to DCHR. The packet should include a cover letter from the agency to DCHR’s Director that details the problem(s) exhibited and impact of these problems (see Attachment 1). The packet should include supporting documentation, a position description, and if applicable, the collective bargaining agreement. Agencies should consult their General Counsel prior to submitting a request;
- Initiate the fitness for duty process by completing an online Fitness Assessment Request; and
- Reply to the fitness assessment confirmation e-mail by attaching the request packet.
DCHR will review the request to determine if the agency has provided sufficient information. If the agency has not submitted sufficient information, DCHR will issue the agency a memorandum denying the request with an explanation of the basis for the denial.
If an agency has provided sufficient information, DCHR will issue a memorandum to the agency which authorizes the FFD for the employee and identifies the next steps for completing the evaluation. DCHR may refer an employee to their own physician or practitioner or a DCHR approved physician for their assessment. If the employee is referred to their own physician or practitioner, the agency should prepare the following documentation for the employee and employee’s physician or practitioner:
- A letter to the employee stating the concerns observed and efforts made by the agency to assist the employee in improving their performance or conduct, and requesting input from the employee’s physician (see Attachment 2);
- A letter to the physician or practitioner stating the concerns observed and agency efforts made to assist the employee in improving their performance or conduct (see Attachment 3);
- The Private Physician’s or Practitioner’s Work Status Recommendation Form (see Attachment 4); and
- A copy of the employee’s position description
If the employee is referred to a DCHR approved physician, DCHR will work with the agency to schedule the employee’s appointment and issue relevant correspondence to the employee. Agencies must comply with the following notice requirements when ordering an employee to report for a fitness for duty assessment regardless of whether they are evaluated by their own physician or practitioner or a DCHR approved physician:
- The order to undergo the medical evaluation must be in writing;
- Inform the employee of the reason(s) the agency is ordering the medical evaluation;
- State what action(s) the employee must take to comply with the order, including whether to bring medical records to the evaluation; and
- State the consequences for failing to comply with the order.
NOTE: Psychiatric examinations (including a psychological assessment) may only be ordered when recommended by a physician or practitioner, or when other medical records reasonably support the need for such an examination.
DCHR will provide the requesting agency the final determination detailing the results and next steps. An employee who undergoes a FFD evaluation will receive one of the following results:
- Fit for Duty – The employee can perform the essential functions of their position without accommodation(s). The employee should continue to perform their duties. Agencies should refer to Chapters 14 and 16 of the District Personnel Manual if the employee continues to exhibit performance or conduct issues.
- Fit for Duty with Accommodation(s) – The employee can perform the essential functions of their position with the assistance of recommended accommodation(s). These accommodations may be temporary or permanent. Agencies should review the listed accommodations and, in consultation with their ADA Coordinator, engage in the interactive ADA process to determine if the recommended accommodations are reasonable.
- Not Fit for Duty – The employee is incapable of performing the essential functions of their position, even with the assistance of accommodations. Agencies should work with the employee, agency ADA Coordinator, and the D.C. Office of Disability Rights, to determine the employee’s options and next steps in accordance with applicable requirements such as the ADA and Chapter 20 of the District Personnel Manual.
Agencies shall maintain medical records
in a manner that ensures the greatest degree of employee privacy (including applicants and candidates). Medical records shall not be released to any party except as authorized by Chapter 31 of the District Personnel Manual, federal and District of Columbia laws, regulations, or court order.
Employees’ Obligation to Participate Fully
Employees are expected to provide full cooperation regarding the fitness for duty process. To that end, employees may be subject to appropriate administrative action, up to and including removal, if they refuse to comply with legitimate directives related to the FFD process.
Unless otherwise provided by law, this policy applies to all District government applicants, candidates, employees, and volunteers in positions in agencies under the personnel authority of the Mayor, except for employees who occupy uniformed positions in the Fire and Emergency Medical Services Department and the Metropolitan Police Department or who individuals who apply for such positions as these positions are covered under Chapter 8 of the District Personnel Manual. This policy also does not apply to employees covered by the public-sector workers’ compensation provisions in Title 7, Chapter 1 of the DC Municipal Regulations.
- Attachment 1 – Template Memo to DCHR
- Attachment 2 – Template Notice to Employee of FFD Order
- Attachment 3 – Template Request to Private Physician or Practitioner for Medical Evaluation
- Attachment 4 – Private Physician’s or Practitioner’s Work Status Recommendation Form