IMPORTANT UPDATE TO THIS BLOG! CDL & DOT/SAP EVALUATIONS CAN BE CONDUCTED REMOTELY ONLINE THROUGH DECEMBER 2021
The DOT Office of Drug and Alcohol Policy & Compliance (ODAPC) has temporarily made allowance for DOT/SAP evaluations to be provided remotely online through December 2021 due to COVID.
DOT / SAP Evaluations Explained Step-by-Step
If you are a CDL holder, are employed as a truck driver, pilot, or similar safety-sensitive position and failed a DOT alcohol or drug test at work or left the testing site before successfully giving a sample, then your ability to work in your normal duties and make your normal income has hit a roadblock until you complete a DOT SAP evaluation. The roadblock part is easy to understand since your employer is under strict federal guidelines to immediately step you down from any safety-sensitive duties. Some employers also terminate the employee immediately, while others will move the employee to non-safety-sensitive duties while the issue is being resolved. Regardless, it is often unclear to the employee as to what to do next if they would like to stay at the same company or in the same occupation and work under DOT rules. The process for a rule violation, regardless of whether the employee had a positive test or not, is always the same, and this blog explains it step-by-step.
What’s A SAP?
First things first – First you need to find a SAP (Substance Abuse Professional) who has training that qualifies them to evaluate a safety-sensitive DOT employee. The SAP must meet with you in person or by videoconference (e.g. Zoom call) to assess your history and current status as far as alcohol or drug use are concerned. This meeting involves completing a written questionnaire completion followed by an interview. Directions Counseling Group lets you complete questionnaires online to save you time then meets you in-person or via Zoom (or other videoconference) for the interview (remote video allowed through Dec. 2021). SAPs charge different fees for their services and have varying degrees of experience. A quick call to the SAP up should provide you with details about their fees, location, availability and overall approach.
How The SAP Helps You
At the end of the first meeting (initial SAP evaluation) with the SAP you are going to be directed to participate in education, counseling, or treatment of some kind. The point of the first meeting is to choose an appropriate amount of intervention (education, counseling, or treatment). It is the SAPs job to find local resources for you to fulfill this DOT requirement. The SAP, by law, cannot refer you to themselves or anyone in their place of employment. This protects you as a consumer so you won't simply be referrred for services in the financial interest of the SAP.
When Will I Get Back to Work?
Employees commonly ask, "how long this is going to take?" Since employees may have very different circumstances and levels of severity with regard to substance use there is no “formula” or standard "drug and alcohol class" for this process. It is the SAPs job to decide what is appropriate for each individual. However, after the first meeting, you should have a pretty good idea of how long your program is projected to last. Some individuals may only need brief educational intervention while others may need weeks or months of treatment. The DOT requires that SAPs require all employees in a SAP program to complete some substance abuse education at a minimum. There is no such things as "no recommendation" in a SAP evaluation.
As you are engaged in fulfilling the recommendation given by the SAP you can contact the SAP with questions or let the SAP know when you have finished. The SAP will need verification that you successfully completed the recommendation. You will need to provide written proof of completion or expect the SAP to communicate with the individual or individuals who provided services to you.
It’s All About Safety
Once the SAP is satisfied that you completed the recommendation, you must return to the SAP for the follow-up evaluation. This second meeting is an interview to discuss what impact the recommendations had on you and whether it is reasonable and safe to allow your employer to begin the return- to-duty process. Safety is the main concern of the SAP, the DOT, and your employer.
Getting Return-to-Work Paperwork
The SAP will prepare three documents for your return-to-work process. First is documentation of the initial evaluation and recommendations. The second document is one indicating if you have been compliant with the recommendations and whether a safety-sensitive employer is allowed to return you to your normal duties after successful testing. The third document is your follow-up testing schedule which is prepared for the employer only, since it contains your follow-up testing requirements.
The follow-up testing schedule rules involve a minimum of 6 tests in the first 12 months of your return to work. After that, the SAP may set a testing schedule of any amount per 12-month period of safety-sensitive duty for up to 5 years total.
If you have tested positive for marijuana or cannabis products you need to be particularly careful not to take a DOT return-to-duty drug test until you are certain that you are not going to test positive for THC.
If You Have More Questions
There are many regulations involved in workplace testing and returning to work after a positive test or rule violation, but this blog covers the big picture of the process. Call us today at 614-888-9200 for a free consultation and get more answers to your questions. We have been serving DOT-regulated employees for the past 15 years and would be happy to help you out whether in-person or remotely online until COVID-19 is over and ODAPC declares in-person services the only acceptable option going forward.