Last updated: November 27, 2023
A negative return-to-duty drug test means a safety-sensitive employee can go back to work. Even so, the employee may not be returning to work for the employer who initially received the negative test result for that employee.
The Department of Transportation (DOT) regulates the safety-sensitive workforce. It requires safety-sensitive employers to implement several types of drug testing. An employee who fails a drug test completes a specific process so they can return to work.
What warrants return-to-duty drug testing?
The three scenarios requiring a return-to-duty drug test are:
- A positive drug test result
- Violation of specific drug and alcohol violations
- Refusal to take a test
The employer removes the driver from duty immediately in all cases. The violation is reported to the FCMSA Drug & Alcohol Clearinghouse and remains visible on the employee’s account until the return-to-duty process is completed.
One step at a time
The Medical Review Officer (MRO) reports the negative test result to the employer. The violation is reported to the FMCSA Drug & Alcohol Clearinghouse within the determined time frame.
The employer gives the employee a list of Substance Abuse Professionals (SAP) in the area. The employee is responsible for contacting and meeting with an SAP. After evaluating the employee, the SAP creates a customized return-to-duty plan for the employee to complete.
The employee completes the steps laid out which include counseling and treatments. The SAP schedules a follow-up meeting and reports the results. The report includes the SAPs final assessment of the employee’s eligibility to return to safety-sensitive employment.
A negative drug test result is the last step of the process. The drug test must be observed so the employee is accompanied to the restroom by a technician of the same sex.
A negative test result means they can return to work, however, a probationary period is set up on a case by case basis. The employer informs the employee they must take a number of random drug tests over a predetermined block of time. All tests must come back negative.
The SAP reports the successful completion of the return-to-duty requirements to the FMCSA Drug & Alcohol Clearinghouse.
Back to work can require a job search
The DOT is responsible for seeing that our citizens can travel the highways safely. Drug testing drivers employed in the safety-sensitive workforce plays a big part in that. It can also play a big part in helping someone realize they need to make some life changes.
Even though the phrase return-to-duty sounds like the employee goes back to work for their employer, that isn’t always the case.
Overall, whether or not an employee keeps working for the same employer doesn’t hinge on successfully completing their return-to-duty process. An employer can terminate them immediately upon receiving the positive drug test result. It depends on the company’s individual drug testing policy.
Once the SAP clears the violation at the FMCSA Clearinghouse, employees can look for work. And, hopefully, they have the tools they need to keep them from breaking down and falling into old habits once they get on the road.