Last updated: September 28, 2020
Drug testing programs are aimed at deterring and identifying drug use while on duty in order to create a safer workplace. Substance abuse at the workplace has steadily declined since the launch of Return to Duty Drug Testing program in the 1980s. There are several drug testing routines required by the law today. One such program is the return-to-duty drug testing. This article explains the facts about RTD drug test.
Who is eligible for a return-to-duty drug test?
Are all employees returning from leave required to take a return-to-duty drug test? NO. Unlike what the name might imply, this test is only for employees who had previously violated the employer’s drug and alcohol policy; either testing positive for illegal substances or refusing to take a drug test. As a result, they were placed on a drug abatement program. Only such employees will be required to take the return-to-duty drug test at the end of their program.
For an employee to have been placed on a drug abatement program, they may have tested positive for illicit drugs during random drug testing or reasonable suspicion drug testing. Random drug tests are, as the name infers, unscheduled tests aimed at ensuing that employees stay free of prohibited drugs at all times. They complement the easy-to-navigate scheduled drug tests. Companies that conduct random testing tend to have less drug abuse than others.
Reasonable suspicion drug testing on the other hand, is a program based on objectively identifiable criteria to indicate impairment by drug or alcohol use. That is to say; one can only undergo this test if they exhibit consistent evidence of being under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Some of the causes of suspicion include slurred speech, the smell of alcohol on the clothing or breath, drowsiness, lack of concentration, bloodshot eyes, and inability to perform routine tasks.
Regulations governing return-to-duty drug testing
Each employer can set their own policy on these tests. However, there are specific regulations that govern return-to-duty drug tests for safety-sensitive federally-mandated workforce, including companies that are required to follow DOT guidelines. This requires that return-to-duty drug testing is conducted at the occurrence of any of the following three events: a positive drug test, violation of specific alcohol or drug regulations, and a refusal to take a test.
Conducting a return-to-duty drug test
A Substance Abuse Professional, or SAP, is required to evaluate employees before they complete their return to duty tests. The SAP may also prescribe necessary treatments and counseling sessions which an employee must complete before taking the test. It is a prerequisite that all federally-mandated employees take these tests under direct observance. This requires that the employee is accompanied by an individual of the same sex to observe the collection process.
Once an employee has completed recommended counseling and treatments, the SAP is required to schedule a follow-up meeting, and will write a report based on the results of the follow-up evaluation that will indicate their assessment of the employee’s eligibility to perform safety-sensitive tasks.
The SAP’s confirmation of an employee’s eligibility to return to work is not sufficient proof. Such an employee must also test negative on their return-to-duty drug test. However, the decision to reemploy or hire an eligible person is at the employer’s discretion.