DOT Laws on Drug Test Failures


The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) has strict regulations and guidelines regarding drug and/or alcohol testing for employees. The regulations an employee must comply with depends upon his or her DOT designation as either a testing designated position or non-testing designated position. However, the consequences for failing a DOT employee drug and/or alcohol test are the same for all employees, and may have career-harming consequences.

Testing for Testing Designated Positions

  • While all employees are subject to alcohol and/or drug testing, only those holding testing designated positions are subject to random testing. The DOT defines a testing designated position as any position where a person has a critical safety or security responsibility related to his or her duties as a DOT employee. Examples of testing designated position employees are those operating motor vehicles, criminal investigators, and air traffic controllers. If you are testing designated position employee, you may be asked to submit to a drug test at any time.

Testing for Non-Testing Designated Positions

  • Non-testing designated position employees are not subject to random alcohol and/or drug testing. However, as a non-testing designated position employee, you may be asked to submit to an alcohol and/or drug test if you are suspected of substance abuse, or if you are returning to work after an accident resulting in a fatality, serious injury, or substantial damage to an aircraft or vehicle. In cases where a non-testing designated position employee must submit to a drug test based on suspicion, he or she will be notified of the reason(s) they are being suspected by a management official. Post-accident non-testing designated position employees will be notified of their clearance to return to work once the testing is complete.

Drug and Alcohol Prohibitions for Testing Designated Positions

  • Testing designated position employees are prohibited from using, possessing, trafficking or distributing a controlled substance while on or off duty. Testing designated position employees are also prohibited from using alcohol within four hours (or longer if required by the Operations Administrator) of reporting for duty at the DOT. Testing designated position employees may not refuse to empty their pockets when required to do so by their supervisor, or refuse to submit to a drug test at any time, or tamper with a specimen.

Drug and Alcohol Testing Prohibitions for Non-Testing Designated Positions

  • Non-testing designated position employees are prohibited from using controlled substances while on duty, or possessing, trafficking, or distributing a controlled substance while on or off duty. Non-testing designated position employees may not refuse to submit to a drug test when requested, or tamper with or substitute a specimen. There are no requirements for non-testing designated positions regarding alcohol use before reporting for duty, as long as the alcohol use does not interfere with the ability to perform basic tasks.

Drugs Tested for and Alcohol Limits

  • All DOT employees are tested for the following substances during a drug test: marijuana/THC, cocaine, amphetamines (including methamphetamines), opiates (including codeine, heroin, and morphine), and phencyclidine (PCP). The presence of any of these substances in an employee's specimen will result in a failed drug test. For alcohol testing, a confirmed blood alcohol level of .04 or higher for an initial test, or .01 or higher for a follow-up test, is considered a failure.

DOT Laws Regarding Drug and/or Alcohol Test Failures

  • If a DOT employee fails a drug and/or alcohol test, his or her supervisor will document the failure in writing and begin disciplinary action. This action may include removal from all "safety sensitive" functions and/or removal from Federal duty completely. In addition, the drug test results may be sent, if requested, to the OAs of other DOT departments to which the employee transfers, as well as to any non-federal jobs to which the the employee applies.

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