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§ 26.189 Determination of fitness.

(a) A determination of fitness is the process entered when there are indications that an individual specified in § 26.4(a) through (e), and at the licensee's or other entity's discretion as specified in § 26.4(f) and (g), may be in violation of the licensee's or other entity's FFD policy or is otherwise unable to safely and competently perform his or her duties. A determination of fitness must be made by a licensed or certified professional who is appropriately qualified and has the necessary clinical expertise, as verified by the licensee or other entity, to evaluate the specific fitness issues presented by the individual. A professional called on by the licensee or other entity may not perform a determination of fitness regarding fitness issues that are outside of his or her specific areas of expertise. The types of professionals and the fitness issues for which they are qualified to make determinations of fitness include, but are not limited to, the following:

(1) An SAE who meets the requirements of § 26.187 may determine the fitness of an individual who may have engaged in substance abuse and shall determine an individual's fitness to be granted authorization following an unfavorable termination or denial of authorization under this part, but may not be qualified to assess the fitness of an individual who may have experienced mental illness, significant emotional stress, or other mental or physical conditions that may cause impairment but are unrelated to substance abuse, unless the SAE has additional qualifications for addressing those fitness issues;

(2) A clinical psychologist may determine the fitness of an individual who may have experienced mental illness, significant emotional stress, or cognitive or psychological impairment from causes unrelated to substance abuse, but may not be qualified to assess the fitness of an individual who may have a substance abuse disorder, unless the psychologist is also an SAE;

(3) A psychiatrist may determine the fitness of an individual who is taking psychoactive medications consistently with one or more valid prescription(s), but may not be qualified to assess potential impairment attributable to substance abuse, unless the psychiatrist has had specific training to diagnose and treat substance abuse disorders;

(4) A physician may determine the fitness of an individual who may be ill, injured, fatigued, taking medications in accordance with one or more valid prescriptions, or using over-the-counter medications, but may not be qualified to assess the fitness of an individual who may have a substance abuse disorder, unless the physician is also an SAE; and

(5) As a physician with specialized training, the MRO may determine the fitness of an individual who may have engaged in substance abuse or may be ill, injured, fatigued, taking medications under one or more valid prescriptions, and/or using over-the-counter medications, but may not be qualified to assess an individual's fitness to be granted authorization following an unfavorable termination or denial of authorization under this part, unless the MRO is also an SAE.

(b) A determination of fitness must be made in at least the following circumstances:

(1) When there is an acceptable medical explanation for a positive, adulterated, substituted, or invalid test result, but there is a basis for believing that the individual could be impaired while on duty;

(2) Before making return-to-duty recommendations after an individual's authorization has been terminated unfavorably or denied under a licensee's or other entity's FFD policy;

(3) Before an individual is granted authorization when potentially disqualifying FFD information is identified that has not previously been evaluated by another licensee or entity who is subject to this subpart; and

(4) When potentially disqualifying FFD information is otherwise identified and the licensee's or other entity's reviewing official concludes that a determination of fitness is warranted under § 26.69.

(c) A determination of fitness that is conducted for cause (i.e., because of observed behavior or a physical condition) must be conducted through face-to-face interaction between the subject individual and the professional making the determination. Electronic means of communication may not be used.

(1) If there is neither conclusive evidence of an FFD policy violation nor a significant basis for concern that the individual may be impaired while on duty, then the individual must be determined to be fit for duty.

(2) If there is no conclusive evidence of an FFD policy violation but there is a significant basis for concern that the individual may be impaired while on duty, then the subject individual must be determined to be unfit for duty. This result does not constitute a violation of this part nor of the licensee's or other entity's FFD policy, and no sanctions may be imposed. However, the professional who made the determination of fitness shall consult with the licensee's or other entity's management personnel to identify the actions required to ensure that any possible limiting condition does not represent a threat to workplace or public health and safety. Licensee or other entity management personnel shall implement the required actions. When appropriate, the subject individual may also be referred to the EAP.

(d) Neither the individual nor licensees and other entities may seek a second determination of fitness if a determination of fitness under this part has already been performed by a qualified professional employed by or under contract to the licensee or other entity. After the initial determination of fitness has been made, the professional may modify his or her evaluation and recommendations based on new or additional information from other sources including, but not limited to, the subject individual, another licensee or entity, or staff of an education or treatment program. Unless the professional who made the initial determination of fitness is no longer employed by or under contract to the licensee or other entity, only that professional is authorized to modify the evaluation and recommendations. When reasonably practicable, licensees and other entities shall assist in arranging for consultation between the new professional and the professional who is no longer employed by or under contract to the licensee or other entity, to ensure continuity and consistency in the recommendations and their implementation.

[73 FR 17223 Mar. 31, 2008]

Page Last Reviewed/Updated Thursday, July 25, 2013