Employee assistance programs and termination

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Updated: 4/13/2007 3:36 pm
An employee assistance program, also known as an EAP (E-A-P), is a type of worker benefit plan designed to help employees overcome personal or behavioral problems that interfere with attendance or work performance. These problems may be related to substance abuse, health issues, family troubles, or financial difficulties. Whatever the cause may be, most EAPs have trained counselors who can provide telephone or personal support on a confidential basis for employees with questions, crises, or needs. They may also provide referrals to substance abuse clinics or other health care facilities. EAPs are usually recommended to employees as a way of keeping them from losing their jobs. It's generally seen as a last chance for employees to improve their performance deficiencies. If troubled employees reject that opportunity, companies can strengthen their decision to terminate them. How long an employee is required to remain in an employee assistance program largely depends on the employer's discretion and the severity of the problem. If workers show no marked improvement within the time period designated by the employer, they can be terminated. Employers should note, however, that employees who are given a chance to attend an employee assistance program should be given reasonable time to improve or change their behavior. Firing workers before they're allowed to complete counseling sessions may result in wrongful termination lawsuits.

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