Employee Assistance Programs: Some Basics (continued)
EAPs are not a “safe harbor“. . . . Participation in the MCPS EAP does not excuse unsatisfactory job performance. Your hands are not “tied” and you are not prohibited from taking action in response to an employee’s continuing job performance problems.
EAPs are voluntary. . . Employees are not “forced” to participate in the MCPS EAP. Getting angry or telling an employee it is “mandatory” to go to the EAP may harm the program’s ability to attract employees and the organization’s investment in it. Utilization may suffer. Employees who come to the EAP and say, “My supervisor told me I had to come,” are typically less accepting of help.
EAPs are non-disciplinary. . . EAPs cannot dispense, recommend, or recommend against disciplinary action. An employee cannot have job security, promotional opportunities, or position status jeopardized solely for participating in an EAP.
There are two types of referrals to an EAP.
- Self-referral: An employee volunteers to participate in the EAP without being referred by the supervisor.
- Supervisor Referral: The employee agrees to participate in the EAP after being referred by the supervisor based on job performance problems (attendance, quality of work, behavior/conduct, availability issues, etc.).
The MCPS EAP may be charged with evaluating an employee who tests positive for drugs or alcohol at work. The EAP may then refer him or her to treatment. MCPS may choose to terminate an employee for violating the organization’s drug-free workplace policy if he or she does not accept an EAP referral and follow its recommendations. Is this a voluntary use of the EAP? The answer is “yes” because the employee is being offered an opportunity to be accommodated for a health care problem in lieu of termination for violating the policy.
With an EAP, a supervisor can focus on performance, and not feel compelled to get “involved” in the personal problems of employees. Supervisors should take advantage of this and expect employees to take personal responsibility for using resources and accepting help offered by the EAP.