What is a Substance Abuse Professional

If you have an employee who tests positive for either drugs or alcohol and falls under DOT regulations, you are required by law to refer that employee to a Substance Abuse Professional (SAP) and the employee is then required to complete their prescribed return-to-duty plan before they can return to safety-sensitive duties.  

The SAP is an accredited counselor who has additional training on the DOT federal regulations and is also a very important part of the DOT drug testing process. It’s important to know whether or not the SAP has had sufficient experience in providing these services. A good resource is the Third-Party Administrator of your drug testing program to ask to see a sample report and verify how many assessments the SAP you select has done in the past year.

Next, the SAP will assess the employee (either in person or online) to determine the level of addiction and develop the protocol of what needs to happen before that employee can return to work with a return-to-duty test”.  

It’s important to note, the SAP will not be the counselor of that employee but rather is the gatekeeper to ensure the employee has followed all the steps necessary as prescribed by the SAP, (i.e., counseling, participation in self-help groups like AA or NA, etc.). The SAP also prescribes the additional required directly observed DOT testing (follow-up tests) to be completed once the employee has successfully passed their return-to-duty test. 

Is the employer obligated to keep the employee who has been referred to a SAP or to pay for this process or the follow-up tests? 

The DOT regulations are mute on this, as well as who pays for the SAP assessment, any treatment plans, and the follow-up tests prescribed. That is between the employer and the employee. 

Is it worthwhile to keep an employee who has tested positive and needs to go through the SAP process? 

In many cases, yes. Skilled workers are hard to come by these days and if you decide to keep this employee, you’ll have a grateful employee who no longer has a substance abuse problem.

For more information about SAPs, visit this link or contact DFB for referrals.

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