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Return To Duty (RTD) Drug Testing


The Return-to-Duty (RTD) test is often given after a donor has violated a company’s drug and alcohol policy. If the violation occurs in a safety-sensitive position (for example oil and gas, construction, or transportation) the donor must be removed from duty immediately. If the donor is not in a safety-sensitive position, actions can vary.

Return-to-Duty drug tests are performed after one of three (3) incidents occur:

Step 1    The associated MRO contacts the donor, informing them of the Test Results (non-negative), and then refers the donor to their Corporate HR Team.

Step 2    The employer supplies the employee with the Company Drug and Alcohol Policy.

Step 3    The DISA Return to Duty Team refers the donor to either a Substance Abuse Professional (SAP) or Employee Assistance Program (EAP) depending on Policy/Program.

Step 4    The donor contacts the SAP or EAP and begins the Return to Duty Process.

The Substance Abuse Professional (SAP)

  • What is a Substance Abuse Professional (SAP)?

A Substance Abuse Professional, known as an SAP, must be certified as a Certified Substance Abuse Program Administrators (C-SAPA).

To become an SAP, the individual must successfully obtain the certification through taking the C-SAPA exam.  This certification verifies that the person administering drug tests is reliable and has successfully demonstrated his/her capability in this industry with proper credentials.

  • What does an SAP do?

The first step of the Return-to-Duty process is an initial meeting with the SAP for the donor to be evaluated by the Substance Abuse Professional (SAP).

Once the donor has been evaluated, the SAP will establish a treatment program for the donor they must complete any treatment deemed necessary by the SAP prior to taking the Return-to-Duty (RTD) test.

  • How do I find an SAP?

To select a SAP, see the DISA’s Network of Substance Abuse Professionals (SAP).


  1. Once the donor has completed their designated program, they must meet with their assigned SAP, who will then determine if the donor can take an RTD test and resume work again.
  2. The donor must take a Return-to-Duty (RTD) Test prior to being available to return to work.
  3. The employer must schedule this test.
  4. The RTD test that is administered must be under direct supervision to assure that the test results are not manipulated in any way.


  1. The SAP will direct the number of tests that will occur based on the Program/Policy parameters and can direct more tests if deemed necessary.
  2. Unannounced follow-up tests may also be administered to the employee to make sure that drug use does not continue at any time after treatment.
  3. Random Tests will still occur as Company’s Random Programs are separate from the Company’s Return-to-Duty Program.


My employee is returning after being on leave. Shouldn’t he/she take a Return-to-Duty test? 

Considering the term “return to duty” it’s reasonable to assume that returning employees, such as re-hires, those returning from a seasonal layoff, or medical leave would need to complete an RTD test, but instead, these employees would need to take a pre-employment drug test.

What’s the difference between an RTD and a Pre-Employment test? 

Return-to-Duty tests are only administered to an employee once they have violated the drug and alcohol program by receiving a positive or non-negative test result. Employees must also have completed the initial steps of the return-to-duty process, including the completion of the recommended counseling program. RTD’s differ from pre-employment drug tests as they are directly observed, which means an individual of the same sex will accompany the employee throughout the entire process to ensure the integrity of the test.

What is the Return-to-Duty process? 

The process varies by company and industry specifics, but the following are specific steps that need to be taken following a positive test required by the DOT:

  • The immediate removal of an employee from safety-sensitive functions, (i.e. driving) - Even if on the road in another state, the employee must be notified to cease driving as soon as it’s safe to do so.
  • Initial evaluation with a DOT-qualified Substance Abuse Professional (SAP) - The SAP will perform a face-to-face interview to evaluate the employee’s particular situation and history in order to determine a treatment program or plan that the employee must complete.
  • Education and Treatment Program - The SAP will establish a treatment program for the employee during the initial interview.
  • Follow-Up Evaluation with the SAP - Once the employee has completed their designated program, they must meet with their assigned SAP, who will then determine if the employee can take an RTD test and resume work again.
  • Follow-Up Test Schedule - The Designated Employer Representative (DER) will receive a follow-up test schedule from the SAP.
  • Drug Test - This is when the RTD will be scheduled. If the employee has successfully completed the SAP recommended treatment program or plan, their assigned SAP can recommend to the DER that an employee is eligible for a RTD test. Once a negative test result is received, the employee may resume work again.

How many follow-up tests have to be taken? 

Depending on the company, policies may differ; however, the DOT requires the SAP to schedule at least six tests over a 12-month period of time. This process can continue for up to five years, and each follow-up test must be under direct observation.

Do follow-up tests replace random testing? 

No, because random tests are not taken under direct observation and a follow-up test requires direct observation, therefore, they cannot replace one another. The employee must be included in the regular random testing pool like all other drivers and complete any selections in addition to their follow-up schedule.

Customer service reps

Are you a donor needing to contact DISA?

Click below to reach out to our team with questions about Return to Duty (RTD), find Substance Abuse Professionals (SAPs), or contact our MRO.


Substance Abuse Professional Referral Services


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