DOT / SAP Evaluations Explained Step-by-Step

If you are a CDL holder, are employed as a truck driver, pilot, or similar 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 workplace 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 you to non-safety-sensitive duties while you resolve the issue. Regardless, it is often less clear to the employee as to what to do next if you 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 you 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 to assess your history and status as far as alcohol or drug use are concerned. This meeting involves written questionnaire completion and a face-to-face interview.  Directions Counseling Group has you complete questionnaires online to save you time but meets you in-person for an interview. Typically, it requires 1-2 hours in the SAP’s office. You can find a SAP in your area by going to SAPs charge different fees for their services and have varying degrees of experience. You can call the SAP up and ask about their fees, location, availability and overall approach.

How The SAP Helps You
At the end of the meeting 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 cannot refer you to themselves or anyone in their place of employment. This helps protect the employee from being taken advantage of by the SAP and avoids conflicts of interest.

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When Will I Get Back to Work?
Employees commonly ask, how long this is going to take. Since employees may have very different levels of severity in their problem with a substance there is no “formula” or standard 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.

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 some 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 is a meeting 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 a 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.

You should ask for a copy of your initial and follow-up evaluation documents for your own use at a later date, should you need it with a new employer. You are not allowed to have the follow-up testing schedule since the DOT prohibits you from knowing your testing schedule.

Follow-Up Testing
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 for up to 5 years.

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 are happy to help out.


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