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Understanding the Return to Work Process

Understanding the Return to Work Process

Safety-sensitive employees, such as drivers, are required by the Department of Transportation to have periodic drug and alcohol testing—but what happens if they fail that testing?

In short, they are required to leave their duties to undergo training and evaluation from a Substance Abuse Professional, or SAP. Note that the employer is required to tell the employee about the role of the SAP, and about the subsequent Return to Work process. The employer is not required to pay for these services.

Working with the SAP, the employee can begin working toward a return to the workplace—but what does this process entail, exactly? In this post, we’ll summarize the basic trajectory of the Return to Work program.

What to Expect in the Return to Work Program

  • First, the employee will meet with the SAP, who will try to diagnose their drug or alcohol addiction properly and to recommend a viable path forward. A written plan will be prepared, and may involve drug or alcohol testing, or both—just depending on the violation. The employee must follow this plan to the letter.
  • Depending on the nature and extent of the violation, the SAP may recommend some basic education, some limited drug and alcohol treatment, or even a full in-patient addiction rehab program.
  • In accordance with this plan, the employee will likely need to submit to some follow-up drug and alcohol testing, at a specified date or interval.
  • There may be unannounced drug screenings even once the individual returns to the workplace. Note that the dates of these screenings are determined by the employer—not by the SAP.
  • What happens if the employee changes employers during this time? The new employer is then required to complete any outstanding screenings, as directed by the SAP—assuming the new role is safety-sensitive. The employer will find out about these responsibilities through the employee’s federal background check.
  • Another important note for employers is that they are not obligated to do any of the SAP follow-up screenings until the employee returns to their normal, safety-sensitive functions.
  • How long will these screenings be required? Usually, for a year or so. The SAP may terminate the screenings based on his or her discretion. The SAP is the only person who is allowed to make these changes. At least six follow-up drug and alcohol tests are required.
  • These SAP-specified screenings do not replace the random drug tests conducted by the employer. The employee must still submit to these random tests, in addition to their screenings.

This is the basic outlook for anyone who is caught in drug or alcohol violation and wishes to return to their job under the Return to Work program. The employer plays a role in all of this, but note that most of the heavy lifting is done by the employee in collaboration with the SAP.

Finding an SAP in Orange County

Whether you are an employee seeking rehabilitation or an employer who wants to point workers in the right direction, it’s important to know where to turn for substance abuse professionals.

Experience Recovery is a drug and alcohol rehab center based in Orange County, California—and we are passionate about training SAPs who can assist with the Return to Work program. We can connect you to the services you need here in Los Angeles and beyond.

Get the assistance you need for returning to work, freed from drug or alcohol addiction issues. Reach out to the admissions team at Experience Recovery to learn more about this process.

Responding Appropriately to the Presence of Alcohol in an Employee’s System

Responding Appropriately to the Presence of Alcohol in an Employee’s System

Safety is a top priority for employees working for DOT-covered employers, especially when performing safety-sensitive roles. Individuals in these positions are often required to undergo periodic drug and alcohol testing. Should a test come back positive, the employee must be immediately removed from their position for the time being. Under FTA regulations, they are prohibited from performing any safety-sensitive tasks while under the influence.

Understanding Alcohol Regulations

When it comes to alcohol, a breath alcohol test result of 0.04 or greater is considered positive. At this point, an employee must undergo the DOT Return to Duty process and be cleared to return to work by a Substance Abuse Professional (SAP) that is DOT-approved. The employee is evaluated by the SAP and must complete any education or treatment required. Then, they are retested and re-evaluated before the SAP approves them to return to the job.

Any breath alcohol test result below 0.02 is considered negative. There are a variety of medications, foods, and personal hygiene products that contain trace amounts of alcohol which may register on the test. In addition, there is certain margin of accuracy when it comes to testing equipment, so anything between zero and 0.02 is considered to be zero. Employees face no consequences under FTA regulations when it comes to a result below 0.02, but employers can set their own rules on these matters.

But what about when a breath alcohol test returns a result between 0.02 and 0.04? It’s not considered positive, but it’s also not zero. This is sometimes seen as a gray area and can result in confusion from employers. Employees with an alcohol concentration between these thresholds are still considered to be under the influence and should be immediately removed from any safety-sensitive duties. They can not return to work until their next shift as long as at least eight hours have passed since the initial test, and their alcohol concentration is below 0.02 prior to returning.

Once again, employees are not subject to serious consequences for an alcohol concentration between 0.02 and less than 0.04 under FTA regulations, aside from being removed from their position until their test result is less than 0.02, but employers can establish their own policies regarding this matter. However, those policies must comply with federal, state, and local laws since alcohol is a legal substance for anyone age 21 or older.

Supporting Employees in Recovery from Alcohol Use Disorders at Experience Recovery

Should an employee fail an alcohol test, they must be referred to an SAP for further evaluation. While an employer does not have to pay for the evaluation or subsequent treatment, they must inform employees of available options for addiction treatment. Experience Recovery is experienced in working with employees from DOT-covered employers and helping them overcome substance misuse and get back to work.

Individuals in the Orange County area can find the personalized treatment they seek at Experience Recovery ranging from detox to after care services. The facility offers residential, intensive outpatient, outpatient, and return to work programs as well to meet a variety of needs. No two individuals are exactly the same, so their treatment shouldn’t be either. Experience Recovery works with clients to create a plan to help them overcome substance misuse and establish healthier routines and habits in recovery so they can return to work and their safety-sensitive duties.

Contact Experience Recovery today to learn more about our comprehensive care when it comes to addiction recovery and meeting the needs of DOT-covered employers and employees in the Orange County Area.

What Constitutes Test Refusal When It Comes to Pre-Employment Testing

What Constitutes Test Refusal When It Comes to Pre-Employment Testing?

Whether an applicant is looking to be hired into a safety-sensitive position or they are a current employee being transferred into this type of role, chances are, they will be required to submit to drug testing. This is critical because an employer does not want an employee on the job if they are under the influence of drugs that could compromise their safety or ability to perform their job. But if an applicant opts not to undergo drug testing, is that automatically considered a test refusal? Not necessarily.

Informing Applicants of Their Rights

Before any testing takes place, applicants have the right to know what is required. Employers must provide these requirements in writing. The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) outlines when and what testing is necessary for employees who hold (or are applying for) safety-sensitive positions.

Can Applicants Say No?

Once someone applies for a job or transfer and they find out that drug testing is required, can they decide to say no, they don’t want to participate? The short answer is yes, they can. If an applicant decides that they don’t want to take the test – and they have not yet been given a collection cup – they can withdraw from the hiring process. This is not considered a test refusal because the process was not started. However, this also means that they are no longer eligible for the position since drug testing is a requirement.

What Counts as Test Refusal?

Once an applicant receives a collection cup, they must move forward and comply with the testing requirements. If at this point they interfere with the process or decide to leave early, this is considered test refusal. All test refusals must be disclosed to DOT-covered employers for two years.

Other factors that may be considered test refusal (aside from not completing the test) include:

  • Leaving the testing site before permitted or refusing to allow monitoring of the specimen provided.
  • Wearing any type of prosthetic device that may alter testing.
  • Not taking additional tests or having a medical exam when required.
  • Not providing enough urine for testing without a valid medical reason.
  • Failure to comply with any aspect of testing.
  • Confirmation that the specimen was altered or substituted either through admission by the applicant or discovery by the Medical Review Officer.

Is Alcohol Testing Required?

Certain positions may require pre-employment alcohol testing, but not all do. It depends on the agency and job. However, if it is deemed necessary, it must be consistently and fairly enforced. Once again, applicants must be informed of the testing requirements, and testing should only be conducted once a contingent offer of employment is extended. Results must be negative before the employee can begin working.

Setting Applicants Up for Success

Communication is key when it comes to hiring. Applicants should be well-informed regarding testing requirements and how the process works. Let them know ahead of time how much time is required for testing so they can make plans to be available for the duration of the test. This can help curb test refusal designations for applicants who may have been good candidates but had to leave early because they didn’t realize what the process entailed or how long it would take. Be upfront about expectations and testing guidelines as well.

Supporting Employees Who Do Not Pass Required Drug Testing

While employers are not required to pay for evaluations or treatment for employees who do not pass mandated drug tests, they must provide employees with a list of DOT-approved substance abuse professionals in the area. This gives employees options to seek the help they need for recovery so they can potentially return to the job in the future. (Remember: if an employee fails a drug test, they must be immediately removed from any safety-sensitive role.)

Experience Recovery provides a wide range of addiction treatment services to individuals in Orange County, California, so they can overcome substance use disorders. From detox through after care, programs are individually tailored to meet the needs of each client. Furthermore, Experience Recovery is a DOT-approved substance abuse treatment provider. Get your employees on the road to recovery through our Return to Work Program. Contact Experience Recovery today!

Understanding the Return to Duty SAP Process

Understanding the Return to Duty SAP Process

What happens when you have an employee who is required to take a DOT drug or alcohol test—and the test comes back positive? The short answer: As an employer, you are legally required to remove that employee from any safety-sensitive, DOT-covered activities, and to refer that employer to local, DOT-qualified substance abuse professionals (SAPs). You do not have to pay for evaluation or treatment, but you can’t put your employee back on the job site until he or she completes the DOT Return to Duty process, under the guidance of the SAP.

But what does this return to duty process entail, exactly? What should your employee expect? And how long will it be before you can put your employee back in the field? In this post, we’ll address each of those questions.

How the Return to Duty Process Works

The process always begins with an evaluation. The employee will meet with the SAP face-to-face, and the SAP will evaluate the nature and extent of the individual’s drug or alcohol problem.

Here it may be helpful to point out that SAPs are clinical professionals who specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of addiction. Not only that, but they have received special recognition from the DOT—and furthermore, they maintain key professional credentials and submit to ongoing education about the latest in addiction treatment. These are truly the leaders in the field of addiction care.

During the evaluation, the SAP will recommend some treatment options or educational opportunities for the employee. The employee is then expected to submit to these treatments; again, as the employer, you are not required to pay for this. You only have to make sure your employee is aware of the options.

Once the employee has completed the treatment and/or education, he or she will meet with the SAP again. The SAP will then declare whether or not the employee is fit to return to duty.

Key point: The SAP will simply determine whether the employee is eligible to return to work. As the employer, it’s your call whether or not you want to bring this employee back on board.

The Timeline for Return to Duty

The employee and the employer alike will want to know just how long this process will take—and unfortunately, there’s no easy answer here. It’s really up to the SAP, who may recommend varied treatments to different individuals, just depending on the nature and the extent of the substance use problem.

Full inpatient treatment can typically take a matter of months, but that isn’t going to be necessary for every employee who tests positive for drugs or alcohol—so ultimately, it’s just something you’ll have to address with the substance abuse clinician you work with.

Addiction Recovery Options from Experience Recovery

If your employee needs an addiction rehab program in the Orange County, California area, make sure to give Experience Recovery a call. We provide customized clinical treatments for those struggling with drug or alcohol addiction, and we have ample experience treating working professionals. We can provide treatment plans that get your employees back to work as soon as possible, all while prioritizing their health and wellbeing.

Experience Recovery is proud to be a leading provider of addiction recovery care in the Orange County area, and to offer a full spectrum of services from detox to after care. Learn more about our addiction recovery programs by contacting the Experience Recovery team directly.

What Happens When an Employee Fails DOT-Mandated Drug Testing

What Happens When an Employee Fails DOT-Mandated Drug Testing?

Some employers are required by law to have their employees screened for drug use; the Department of Transportation, in particular, may mandate this testing for employees who use certain vehicles or equipment. Employers always hope that their people will pass with flying colors, of course—but this isn’t always the case. What do you do, though, when an employee fails a drug screening? Does that employee have to be fired? Can that employee ever be re-hired? The important thing, first and foremost, is to follow DOT guidelines to the letter, while also being aware of the addiction rehab options available in your area.

What Happens After a Positive Drug Test?

First things first: If an employee takes a DOT-mandated drug test, and that test comes back positive, you must remove that employee from any DOT-covered functions right away. This means any activity involving driving or operating a motor vehicle. Don’t wait for a written letter from the Medical Review Officer, or any follow-up from the testing. If an employee registers as positive for drugs or alcohol, he or she must be removed from DOT-covered functions right away, or else you’ll be in direct violation of the law.

What About Rehab and Recovery?

From there, it is legally mandated that employers provide these employees with information about qualified substance abuse professionals in the local area. This goes for anyone who tests positive in a random, pre-employment DOT drug or alcohol screening. Note: You are not required to pay for this addiction rehab. You’re not even required to pay for the evaluation. All that’s required of you, as an employer, is to provide employees who need it with a list of DOT-approved substance abuse professionals in your area. You can reach out to DOT directly for a list.

When Can These Employees Return to Work?

To return to DOT-covered, safety-sensitive duties, these employees must undergo the DOT Return to Duty protocol. This means being evaluated by a DOT substance abuse professional, completing the necessary treatment and/or education, and then having a follow-up evaluation from the substance abuse professional.

How long will all of this take, exactly? It just depends. The timeframe can be wildly variable, just depending on the nature of the addiction and the level of treatment or education that’s required. Remember that the substance abuse professional doesn’t work for your company, but for the general public, and he or she will only approve the return to duty when it’s clinically appropriate.

Does it Have to Be a DOT-Approved Substance Abuse Professional?

Be aware that these evaluations do have to be performed by DOT-qualified substance abuse professionals. In order to receive this qualification, substance abuse professionals receive specialized education and maintain key professional accreditations. Ongoing education is also needed. In other words, you can’t send your employee to just any drug or alcohol rehab center. It is always important to find a substance abuse professional who is approved by DOT.

Learn More About Addiction Treatment from Experience Recovery

Experience Recovery provides addiction treatment services to individuals throughout Orange County—and we are proud to work with those employees who need DOT-related care. If you’re an employer, and a member of your team fails a drug screening, we can help you ensure that the employee gets the right care to return to the job site.

We offer a full spectrum of clinical services, from detox to after care, and we tailor our programming to meet the individual needs of each client. To learn more about our return to work program, reach out to Experience Recovery today.

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