SAP Evaluations and Treatment
If you are employed in a Department of Transportation or Nuclear Plant and have safety-sensitive position that falls under the:
- FMCSA - Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration
- FAA - Federal Aviation Administration
- USCG - United States Coast Guard
- FRA - Federal Railroad Administration
- PHMSA - Pipeline & Hazardous Materials Safety Administration
- FTA - Federal Transit Administration
- Nuclear Regulatory Agency (NRA)
And have violated the Federal DOT drug and alcohol regulations by testing positive for drugs, an alcohol concentration of 0.04 or greater, refusing a test, not able to provide a specimen in a timely manner or failing to take a test, then you must be immediately removed from your DOT safety-sensitive duties.
In order for you to be considered for return to any DOT safety-sensitive role in the transportation industry or be hired by a different DOT-covered employer you must successfully complete the DOT return-to-duty process. This will require the involvement of a DOT qualified Substance Abuse Professional (SAP).
What does a SAP do?
The SAP's fundamental responsibility is to provide a comprehensive face-to-face assessment and clinical evaluation to determine what level of assistance the employee needs in resolving problems associated with alcohol use or prohibited drug use. The SAP then recommends a course of education and/or treatment with which the employee must demonstrate successful compliance prior to returning to DOT safety-sensitive duty. Treatment recommendations can include, but are not limited to: In-patient treatment, partial in-patient treatment, out-patient treatment, education programs, and aftercare. Education recommendations can include, but are not limited to bona fied drug and alcohol education courses, self-help groups, and community lectures. Upon the determination of the best recommendation for assistance, the SAP will serve as a referral source to assist the employee's entry into an acceptable program.
Prior to the employee's return to safety-sensitive duties, the SAP will have a face-to-face follow-up evaluation with the employee to determine if the individual has demonstrated successful compliance with recommendations of the initial evaluation. This evaluation must be accomplished before an employer can consider the employee for return to safety-sensitive functions. Therefore, the evaluation serves to provide the employer with assurance that the employee has made appropriate clinical progress sufficient to return to duty.
NON-DOT SAP Evaluations
A significant number of companies maintain a drug-free workplace program for employees who are not subject to DOT regulations. A drug and alcohol testing plan is one way for an employer to maintain a safe work environment and can be based on insurance requirements, negotiated labor agreements and/or company Human Resource policies. When in writing as terms and conditions of employment, the employee must be fully compliant with the company's drug and alcohol-testing program.
Many employers have come to recognize that the DOT SAP process is the gold standard for establishing the requirements necessary for an employee to be returned to work. Accordingly, an employer may require an employee who has failed or refused a drug or alcohol test to be seen by a DOT qualified Substance Abuse Professional (SAP) for a 'non-DOT SAP' evaluation. While they cannot make the employee see a SAP, if the individual elects not to go through the process, the employer can legally deny one's return to work.
The benefits of an employer electing to send the employee for a 'non-DOT SAP' evaluation are:
Limited Disclosure of Employee Information to the Employer - As part of the process, the SAP will conduct a face-to-face evaluation with the employee. Afterwards, the SAP will provide the employer with a written report limited to the individual's offense and recommendations as to what type of drug or alcohol treatment/education is required if he/she is expected to be returned to work. If the employee complies with the recommended plan, the SAP will provide the employer with a written return-to-work report. This document will identify the treatment provider, dates of treatment, a clinical characterization of the employee's program participation and a determination as to the employee's demonstration of successful compliance. The return to work recommendation can be made when the employee has completed the program or, in the SAP's opinion, the individual has demonstrated a level of commitment and stability. Completion of the treatment program is mandatory. All reports from the treatment provider are sent to the SAP and not to the employer.
If the employee does not go through a DOT SAP, a State Certified treatment agency may provide the employer with an evaluation that is typically categorized as a 'bio-psych-social' assessment. This report documents the employee's drug and alcohol usage/treatment history. The report will routinely include a medical, mental health, legal/arrest, work and family history. Much of the information detailed in this report is obviously beyond what an employer needs to know and is potentially prejudicial to the employee.
Customized Employee Treatment Plan Care - The SAP determines the treatment program, frequency and length of care. In addition, the SAP will refer the employee to a treatment agency that will provide a drug or alcohol education/treatment program best suited to their specific needs.
Once again, if the employee does not go through a DOT SAP, more than 95% of the time the assessing treatment agency will refer the employee to their own facility. The treatment regime can easily become a 'one size fits all' as it is then based upon the agency's clinical protocols and available programs.
Fitness for Duty Evaluations
The FAA and the USCG through the National Maritime Center (NMC) will withhold an application or an initial license, or the renewal of an existing license for any applicant who reports a drug and/or alcohol related arrest, treatment, or usage problem.
As a result, both agencies require a Fitness for Duty assessment, which can be conducted by a DOT qualified SAP. This diagnostic assessment may include, but is not limited to a review of local court, Department of Licensing, medical, prior drug and alcohol treatment and employment records. In addition, the assessment will include telephone interviews with character references and appropriate family members and one to two in person meetings with the applicant.
A Fitness for Duty assessment does not necessarily mandate additional treatment or education requirements. If the applicant has successfully completed an appropriate education and/or treatment program subsequent to the precipitating incident then no further care may be required.
The overall Fitness for Duty assessment process is typically concluded within a 10 to 14 day period.
The following agencies may provide additional information relevant to your particular situation: