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 for 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
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