Return-to-Duty Testing

If an employee in the safety-sensitive transportation industry fails a drug or alcohol test, refuses testing or has otherwise violated drug and alcohol policies, a DOT return-to-duty test is required to get them back to work. Employees who are subject to the DOT return-to-duty testing include truck and bus drivers, train engineers, pilots, subway operators, ship captains, and pipeline emergency response personnel - among others.

As an employer, you get the choice of offering the employee a chance of returning to their job, however the safety-sensitive, federally-mandated workforce is governed by specific regulations, and the employee must follow this DOT-mandated process. 

Depending upon the infraction, there are return-to-duty alcohol tests and return-to-duty controlled substances tests. The alcohol test must come back with an alcohol concentration of less than 0.02. A return-to-duty controlled substances test (DOT drug test) will need to come back with a verified negative result.

The DOT Return-To-Duty Requirements

In order to return to work after failing or refusing a drug test or violating drug and alcohol policies, the employee must follow the DOT-mandated process prior to completing the actual drug or alcohol testing.

Meet With a Substance Abuse Professional

The employee must first receive a list of qualified Substance Abuse Professionals (SAP) and, upon selection, meet with them in-person for an evaluation. The SAP will document the evaluation in a report that’s sent to the employer, as well as recommend education and/or treatment.

Complete the Recommendations

The SAP may recommend counseling or treatment options that the employee will have to complete before they can move on with the process of returning to duty. 

Follow-Up Meeting to Determine Next Steps

Next, a follow-up, in-person meeting with the SAP will get scheduled, and the SAP will decide if the employee has finished all of their recommendations – the education, treatment, etc. If they are satisfied, they will write another report for the employer to let them know if the employee has been successful and is ready for the urinalysis. 

Administering the Return-To-Duty Test

If the SAP deems the treatment as successful, the employee must take a return-to-duty test. The urine collection will need to be given under direct observation by a member of the same sex as the employee. This is done to check for prosthetic and other devices that could be used to cheat the drug test - subsequently, the observer must witness the employee urinate into the collection receptacle. The urine test must come back with an alcohol concentration of less than 0.02, and the drug test must be negative (and verified).

The employer will receive the return-to-duty test results and decide if the employee can return to their job. Even if the employee goes back to their role, the SAP may request follow-up drug and/or alcohol testing (with direct observation) as part of their final recommendation.

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