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Legal eye: Can you ask staff to take a psych evaluation?

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HRM CA | 02 Jun 2014, 10:54 AM Agree 0
From sudden behavioural changes to on-going unusual reactions, what is HR’s legal standing when you think a staff member could have an undiagnosed mental illness?
  • Patricia Pitsel | 19 Jul 2012, 02:30 AM Agree 0
    Employers are in no position to be able to diagnose a mental illness, or to distinguish between an "anger management" problem and a mental illness - hence the need for a professional assessment.

    The ndividual privacy rights of people have to be balanced against the safety rights of their colleagues or other sin the work place (customers, clients, etc.)

    What qualifications did the arbitrator have that enabled him/her to make an assessment regarding the mental health of the employee?
  • Harley Grouette | 19 Jul 2012, 09:55 PM Agree 0
    The reasonable and probable standard for decision making is one that the HR Community should embrace as a standard to be considered in all cases such as these and should ensure that any decision in regards to an employee with personal issues is assessed independantly so that the employee is treated with respect and dignity and not with some preconceived position of an HR representative who has little experience in these areas.
  • Anna Thomson | 20 Jul 2012, 06:52 AM Agree 0
    Having worked in mental health support for many years it's virtually impossible for lay-people to assess others' mental health, but reading this I think it comes back to two things: evidence and genuine belief. There is a big difference between mental illness and an anger problem or a self-control issue. Whether the arbitrator is 100% able to decide this, who knows? But they probably took a lot more time and did a lot more research than the employer did before asking for a psych eval.
  • Sharon | 16 Jun 2014, 04:30 PM Agree 0
    Many employers now have a dedicated individual or department handling Disability and/or Wellness issues, and these people are typically in a better position to assess whether or not a professional evaluation is warranted.

    While it's true that most employers are not in a position to determine whether an employee does or does not have a mental health issue, those whose job it is to handle these issues on a regular basis certainly should have some credibility assigned to their opinions. In our organization, we advise our line managers to contact the SME when such issues arise, and the SME will make an appropriate recommendation based on the facts of the situation and the individual's history. This removes the responsbility from the unit managers and places it where it belongs - with a professional who understands the signs, symptoms and behaviours associated with anger management/mental health issues.
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