Faculty and Staff Handbook

24th Edition, 2015 Version

Chapter V: Compensation Procedures and Issues

5.13 Employee Assistance Program - Procedures

5.13.1 History

The Employee Assistance Program, initiated by Executive Order No. 74, was signed by Governor Patrick J. Lucey on April 9, 1974. The program concepts were introduced to the campus at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls by the State Occupational Alcoholism and Other Drug Abuse Program. Policy was developed and approved by the Faculty Senate, and a coordinator was appointed in the University Counseling Center. The University of Wisconsin-River Falls has had the program and policy in effect since the 1975 academic year.

5.13.2 Purpose

The program was designed to offer assistance to employees who, for whatever reason, are having impaired employment performance.  Frequently, employees who have decreased job productivity or whose efficiency declines also have problems with stress, health, emotional conflicts, alcohol, or drugs. The program has concerned itself with assisting those individuals seeking help for the resolution of these conflicts so job performance returns to acceptable standards.  

The program revolves around the fact that the problems caused by alcohol, drugs, or emotional stress are now viewed as treatable illnesses. These illnesses can generally be treated successfully as individuals seek and accept professional assistance. An additional reason for the program is to prevent the loss of skills, talents, and contributions of those employees with performance difficulties who, without professional assistance, may continue unproductively.

5.13.3 Policy Statement

The University of Wisconsin-River Falls recognizes that a wide range of personal difficulties not directly associated with one's job function may have an effect on employee job performance. Many times the individual will overcome such personal difficulties independently and the effect on job performance will be minimal. In other instances, normal supervisory assistance will serve either as a motivation or guidance by which such difficulties can be resolved so that the individual's performance will be returned to an acceptable level.

In some cases, however, normal efforts will not have the desired effect and unsatisfactory performance will persist over a period of time, either intermittently or constantly. It is in these instances that a supervisor may make a voluntary referral, or the employee may make a self referral to the Employee Assistance Coordinator. The University of Wisconsin-River Falls believes it is in the public interest to provide a service which deals with emotional/psychological concerns  and alcohol or other drug abuse. Therefore, it is the policy of the University of Wisconsin-River Falls to handle such problems within the following framework: 

(1) The University of Wisconsin-River Falls recognizes that the behavioral-medical problems of alcoholism, other drug dependencies and emotional/psychological  illnesses are all highly complex illnesses that can be successfully treated.  

(2) It is also recognized that the social stigma often associated with alcoholism, drug abuse, and emotional/psychological illness has no factual basis. It is believed that an enlightened public attitude and a realistic acceptance of these behavioral/medical/psychological  problems as illnesses will encourage employees who have such an illness, even in its early stages, to take advantage of the diagnostic and counseling and treatment services available in their communities.  

(3) The purpose of the policy is to assure that employees having any of these illnesses will receive the same careful consideration and offer of treatment that is presently extended to employees having other illnesses.  

(4) The University is not concerned with the private decision of the employee to use or not to use alcoholic beverages or other drugs off the job. However, when their use impairs his or her job performance, attendance, conduct, or reliability, it is the responsibility of administrators and supervisors to take action. The employee's job security or promotional opportunities will not be jeopardized by voluntary referral for diagnosis and treatment.  

(5) This policy shall be implemented when the individual has chronic observable job performance deficiencies. These deficiencies may be related to emotional instability, psychological concerns,  the consumption of alcohol, or the use of drugs which interfere with his or her job performance.  

(6) It is recognized that management and supervisory personnel do not have the professional qualifications to make any diagnosis as to whether or not an employee has behavioral/medical/psychological  problems. Therefore, voluntary referral for diagnosis and treatment will be made only at the employee's request and/or on the basis of persistent unsatisfactory job performance. Diagnosis and treatment should be accomplished, as with other illnesses, by existing treatment sources. 

(7) The University considers that an unjust stigma is often associated with alcoholism, drug dependency, and emotional/psychological  illness and realizes that this is out of date. Consequently, referral for diagnosis or acceptance of treatment will in no way jeopardize an individual's job security or opportunities. An individual's participation in this program will remain confidential and will not be made part of his or her personnel records. Medical records and psychological records, if any, will be reserved in the same confidential manner as all other medical records.  

(8) Individuals who have an emotional, psychological, alcohol, or other drug related illness are encouraged to voluntarily seek assistance on a confidential self referral basis by contacting the designated Employee Assistance Coordinator.  

(9) The University believes that an individual's job performance may also be affected when a family member is afflicted with mental health issues, alcoholism,  or other drug dependencies. Assistance to any family member is available at the employee's request.  

(10) It is the option of the individual to comply with referral or diagnosis and to cooperate with properly prescribed treatment.  

(11) Consideration will be given to those individuals who may require sick leave or excused absence due to treatment or rehabilitation programs. These will be provided on the same basis that is granted for all other health problems. In those cases, employee's annual leave or leave without pay may be used.  

(12) Illnesses of alcoholism, drug dependency and emotional/psychological disorders will receive the same financial benefits and insurance coverage provided for other illnesses under established employee benefit plans.  

(13) Implementation of this program will not require or result in any special regulations, privileges, or exemptions from the standard administrative practices applicable to an employee's job performance, except as may be outlined in a labor agreement. The fact that an individual accepts, rejects or fails to respond to treatment for alcoholism or drug abuse in no way diminishes his or her responsibility to meet the required performance standards of his or her job. The same would apply to those encountering mental health issues or emotional instability.

For more information on University of Wisconsin-River Falls policies, see

And for further information on how the Employee Assistance Program works at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls, see