3 Steps- SAP Return-To-Duty Process

The SAP return-to-duty process can be confusing and time-consuming. When an employee violates DOT drug and alcohol regulations, they cannot perform any DOT safety-sensitive activities until they have completed the RTD (return-to-duty) process.

In other words, If you or your employee would like to get back to work as soon as possible, then take action to complete the three steps shown below.

But you must take action now. Scheduling the process could take some time. And time means money to you and your employees. That’s why at my counseling practice in New Jersey, I offer appointments within 24hrs.

The three main steps required to return-to-duty after a failed DOT drug and alcohol test are:

  1. SAP Evaluation
  2. Referral
  3. Education / Treatment


Once your employee has failed or refused a DOT drug and alcohol test, remove them from duties immediately, and give them a list of DOT-approved substance abuse professionals. I recommend all your drivers download the SAP App Directory on their cell phone or tablet, so they never miss a beat.

Let’s take a look at those three steps now.



After your driver has been removed from service and has the SAP app directory downloaded, then the driver must schedule a face to face evaluation with a DOT qualified substance abuse professional (SAP); this is the first step in the return-to-duty process.

  • Try to find a SAP who can schedule you for an appointment within 24 hours.
  • 24hr scheduling is not always available
  • Call around to get the earliest appointment.

If your driver happens to be in the New Jersey area, call our facility, and we will prioritize your evaluation to see them that day or the next.



After a face-to-face clinical evaluation is complete, your SAP counselor will refer your employee to a drug and alcohol education/treatment program. A good counselor will:

  • Have a working knowledge of what programs are available nearby.
  • Consider your employee's ability to pay, insurance and other resources.

Once a SAP approved program (meaning treatment) has been agreed upon with the employee, then the counselor will make the referral and provide the program with all the necessary documentation, including a recommended treatment plan.



When the employee has followed the referral and the recommended treatment plan, the SAP will re-evaluate to determine if the process was successful.

  • The SAP will draw on information from the treatment center and another face to face meeting with the employee.
  • If this SAP counselor determines the employee has successfully completed the treatment plan, then they may return to duty.

Some employees may be required to do additional aftercare or some outpatient counseling; this is at the discretion of the SAP.

If, however, the driver or employee has not completed the treatment plan as prescribed, then additional evaluations are required before he or she may return to duty.

The SAP return-to-duty process - These are the three main steps that are required for an employee to return to work after failing or refusing a DOT drug and alcohol test.

There is an evaluation that results in a referral to an approved education and treatment provider. That’s it in a nutshell.


Post Treatment

After these three things are complete, and the SAP counselor is happy with the drivers to progress, a report is issued to a designated employer representative (DER). The report will detail any additional treatment or follow-up education if required.

The report would also detail the number of random follow-up DOT drug and alcohol tests to be administered over the following 12 months after the return-to-duty process is complete.

For specific questions or to schedule an appointment in New Jersey, give my office a call or contact us via the links below. One of our trained experts will schedule a face-to-face evaluation within 24hrs.


280 Bloomfield Avenue
Verona, NJ 07044

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08 Jan 2020

By Joel Levine