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What Happens If I Fail A DOT Drug Test?

Posted: February 2, 2019

DOT drug testing is serious business and failing a DOT drug test can cause you to lose your job with even more consequences.  The United States Department of Transportation (DOT) mandates that if you fail a DOT required drug test, you must be removed from your safety sensitive DOT covered position.  Then you must see a Substance Abuse Professional (SAP).  You will need to be evaluated by the SAP, complete a course of education/treatment and also have a follow up evaluation by the SAP.  Finally to get back into a DOT covered job function you must have a negative return to duty test.

That’s a lot to digest.  Let’s start with the initial DOT drug test which is a urine drug test and screening for 5 panels including: AMP-Amphetamines (MAMP-Methamphetamine, MDMA-Ecstasy), COC-Cocaine, OPI-Opiates (including heroin, codeine, morphine and expanded opiates), PCP-Phencyclidine, and THC-Marijuana. This is the Department of Transportation (DOT) required test.  Once collected, your specimen goes to the laboratory for the initial screening and confirmation testing when the initial screen result is positive.  The lab results negative or positive then go to the Medical Review Officer (MRO).

The MRO process involves the verification that a prescribed medicine is not what caused the positive result.  The MRO will call every donor with a positive result to give the donor the opportunity to present any prescription information to explain the positive result.  If the prescription checks out the MRO will report the result to your employer as a negative.

When your employer receives the final result which has been reviewed and verified by the Medical Review Officer (MRO); it is required that you be immediately removed from the DOT safety sensitive position.  A final drug test result reported by the MRO is a final valid result, there is no false positive.  In some cases, your employer might terminate your employment; companies have a zero tolerance policy for testing positive on a drug test.  The requirement to see the SAP is required whether you are fired or not fired.  It is important to understand that a refusal to test has the same consequences as a positive test.

The Substance Abuse Professional (SAP) is a person who evaluates employees who have violated a DOT drug and alcohol program regulation and makes recommendations concerning education, treatment, follow-up testing, and aftercare.  The function is to protect the public interest in safety by professionally evaluating the employee and recommending appropriate education and/or treatment, follow-up tests, and aftercare.  The determinations and recommendations of the SAP are final and cannot be changed by the employer or employee. 

An employee who violates DOT drug testing regulations cannot continue to work for any employer in a safety sensitive position until such time as the SAP issues a final evaluation and return to work clearance.  The SAP will also require follow up testing after the return to work and the return to duty drug test.  At a minimum the SAP must require 6 follow up tests over the next 12 months from return to duty. However, additional follow up tests can be required up to 5 years. The decision of the SAP on follow up testing is final.

In the future, after January of 2020; DOT positive tests will be required to be reported to a national database called the FMCSA Clearinghouse.  This will include refusals to test.  Employers will be required to check this database before hiring you and annually to make sure the employee has not had a violation.  The database will also include information about the successful completion of the SAP process.  

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