THE DOT SAP PROCESS
DOT's return-to-duty process.
An employee, whether a truck driver, or a pipeline worker who has been removed from duty because he or she has 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.
What is the DOT return-to-duty process?
A violation is a positive test. So also is a refusal to be tested. So are a number of other things that are prohibited by DOT.
When an employee has a positive test or refuses to be tested or has one of DOT's 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, up to $10,000 per day.
An employee who has a violation has two choices.
1. He/she can find another job, outside of the industry in question
2) He/she can be considered for returning to safety-sensitive functions in the transportation industry, but only after successfully completing DOT’s 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 must conduct a face-to-face clinical evaluation of the employee. DOT’s rule then requires the SAP to recommend treatment and/or education for the employee.
The SAP must send a report to the employer, specifying the SAP's recommendation for treatment and/or education.
The SAP must then monitor the employee’s progress in the recommended program of treatment and/or education.
When the SAP determines that the employee has made sufficient progress, the SAP will schedule a Follow-Up evaluation for the employee.
Based on that evaluation, the SAP will report to the employer that the employee has successfully complied with the SAP's 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.
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.
Below are questions that are sometimes asked by those who have committed a violation.
If I have a violation, do I have to go through a SAP?
Yes, DOT requires that an employee with a DOT violation must be evaluated by a qualified and trained SAP.
What happens if I just quit this job and apply to another employer?
The regulations don't allow you to provide safety-sensitive functions for another DOT employer until and unless you have successfully completed this return-to-duty process. A future DOT-covered employer is required to obtain your drug and alcohol testing records from your previous employers for the previous two years. Your previous employer is required to report this violation, and if there is no SAP report regarding compliance, no employer is permitted to hire you. However, there is nothing preventing you from working for a non-DOT employer, in which case you don't have to go through this SAP process. But if you change your mind in the next two years, and decide to go back to a safety-sensitive function in the transportation industry, you will first have to complete a SAP return-to-duty process.
If I have to pay for this, what will this cost?
SAP services are not cheap. A SAP assessment, monitoring, and follow-up evaluation requires quite a bit of professional time and expertise on the part of the SAP. In addition, a SAP has considerable liability, since DOT considers the SAP to be ultimately responsible to the traveling public. Don't expect that the cost of this assessment will be covered by insurance; it usually isn't. Health insurance covers "medical necessity". A positive drug test involves no medical necessity.
How long will this DOT SAP process take?
That actually depends on the type of recommendation that your SAP makes. (If the SAP recommends an inpatient treatment program, you must complete that program before anything else can happen.) But it also depends on the progress that you make in complying with the SAP's recommendation. Your SAP will be monitoring your progress. He/she will be checking regularly with your treatment provider. When your SAP feels you have made sufficient progress, your SAP will call you to schedule a clinical follow-up evaluation. In the final analysis, it's really up to you. If your SAP feels that you are making little (or no) progress, or that your participation in your program is minimal, the SAP will probably not set up a follow-up evaluation for you.
What happens next?
When your SAP conducts a clinical follow-up evaluation and determines that you have complied with the recommendations, your SAP will send a report of compliance to your employer. Your employer then can decide whether to arrange for you to take a return-to-duty test. (Depending on your employer's written policy, your employer may also decide to terminate you, either before or after the return-to-duty test. Remember that in your employer's eyes, you may still be a safety risk.)
If your employer decides to take you back, and if you have a negative return-to-duty test, you will be subject to follow-up testing as required by your SAP. There must be at least 6 unannounced follow-up tests in the first year, but the SAP can require any number of tests, and the testing period can extend to five years.