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What is the Return-to-Duty Process?

The DOT SAP return-to-duty process is explained here. The process itself is lengthy and involved. An employee who has been removed from duty because of a violation must successfully complete this process before he/she can be considered for return to duty or be hired by a different DOT-covered employer.

When is the Return-to-Duty Process necessary?

Federal Department of Transportation Alcohol and Drug Testing Rules: Department of Transportation regulations require that any safety-sensitive individual who refuses a test can not provide the specimen in a timely manner, tests positive for drugs, or has a breath alcohol concentration of 0.04 or greater must be immediately removed from duty and referred to a Substance Abuse Professional (SAP).

A positive test is a violation. A refusal to be tested is also a violation, as well as number of other things that are prohibited by DOT. For a full explanation of DOT rules and regulations, please visit their website.

When an employee has a positive test or refuses to be tested or has one of the other violations, DOT requires the employer to immediately remove that employee from safety-sensitive functions. An employer who allows an employee with a violation to continue performing safety-sensitive functions is subject to fines of up to $10,000 per day.

An employee who has a violation has two options.

He/she can find another job, outside of the transportation industry.

or

He/she can be considered for returning to safety-sensitive functions in the transportation industry, but only after successfully completing the DOT SAP Return-to-Duty process, and then providing a negative result on a return-to-duty drug and/or alcohol testing.

The return-to-duty process requires involvement of a qualified and trained Substance Abuse Professional, or a SAP.

The SAP has four primary functions:


  • The SAP must provide a comprehensive face-to-face assessment and clinical evaluation to determine what assistance, if any, the employee needs in resolving problems associated with prohibited drug use or alcohol misuse. Even though there is not a significant alcohol or drug problem or you just failed to show up at the test site. You will still have to complete some type of education.

  • The SAP must recommend a treatment or rehabilitation program as necessary and monitor the individual\92s progress through the treatment program.

  • The SAP must determine when the individual has successfully completed the recommended treatment program through a face-to-face follow-up for compliance session and when they are ready to return to safety-sensitive duties.

  • The essential and primary function of the SAP is Public Safety. All clinical work and SAP recommendations for treatment or education will be made with the public\92s safety interest in mind first.



The Process at a "Glance":


  • Face-to-face initial clinical evaluation of the employee.

  • SAP sends report to the employer, specifying the SAP's recommendation for treatment and/or education.

  • The SAP monitors the employee progress in the recommended program of treatment and/or education.

  • When the SAP feels that the employee has made sufficient progress, the SAP will schedule a follow-up evaluation for the employee.

  • Based on the follow-up evaluation, the SAP will report to the employer that the employee has successfully complied with the SAP recommendation (or that the employee has not complied.)


    - If the SAP reports that the employee has successfully complied with the recommendation, the employer will decide whether to arrange for a return-to-duty test for the employee. (The employer is not obligated to take the employee back.)

    - If the SAP reports that the employee has not successfully complied with the recommendation, the employer cannot return to the employee to safety-sensitive functions.


Note: An employee who has not successfully complied with the SAP's recommendation may not return to safety-sensitive functions for any DOT employer until the SAP's recommendations have been fully met and the employee is able to provide a negative return-to-duty test.









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