The Basics of Returning to Duty After a Violation

Under DOT rules, employees are in violation of safety requirements when they have a positive drug or alcohol test or if they refuse to undergo testing. When this occurs, employees must be immediately removed from any safety-sensitive tasks. If employers fail to remove employees from safety-sensitive work after a violation, they may be fined up to $10,000 per day. After a violation, employees can choose to work outside the transportation industry, but before returning to any safety-sensitive functions within the transportation field, they must undergo the official return-to-duty process set by the DOT. Here is an overview of the requirements for returning to duty after a violation.

Clinical Evaluation

After a violation, a substance abuse professional—or SAP—must oversee the return-to-duty process. SAP will first conduct a clinical evaluation of the employee. After the evaluation, the SAP is required by the DOT to recommend a treatment or education plan. An outline of this plan is then provided to the employer by the SAP so that the company understands what the employee must complete before he or she can be cleared to return to work.

Treatment Completion

The employee must complete the program designed by the SAP. During the treatment process, the SAP will monitor the employee’s progress and ensure he or she is complying with all recommendations. Once the employee has made progress through the treatment plan, the SAP will schedule another appointment for a clinical evaluation. During this appointment, the SAP will determine if the employee has complied with the treatment plan and has made sufficient progress. He or she will advise the employer if the employee has complied with treatment or if the employee cannot be considered for return to duty.

Drug and Alcohol Testing

If the SAP has said that the employee has complied with the treatment plan, the employer can arrange a return-to-duty drug or alcohol screening test. If the test is negative, the employer can return the employee to safety-sensitive duties.


The return-to-duty process is complex, but HDS Safety Services can facilitate return-to-duty testing as part of a broader drug and alcohol testing program for your business. Find out more about how we can help you comply with DOT requirements for workers and keep your workplace safe by calling (520) 622-0419.