Compliance Program & Policy Development

Drug testing programs aim to increase workplace safety, protect the employer and clarify expectations of employees. A policy is the foundation of a good compliance program.

Whether you have an established substance abuse program or are just starting out, this section is intended to provide the basic information about a drug/alcohol testing program and how to build a policy to suit your organization's needs.

This section provides an overview of the key roles and responsibilities in a drug testing program, looks at training opportunities and requirements and guidelines for record keeping. We then take a closer look at the drug testing policy by identifying key decision points for both DOT and Non-DOT employers, linking to resources about applicable laws and getting you started with some templates/samples.

Roles and Responsibilities

          * Owner-Operators click HERE before reading


Record keeping and retention requirements

Key Decision Points

Applicable Laws and Regional Resources

Templates / Samples

Roles and Responsibilities

Designated Employee Representative (DER)

Any organization regulated by the US Department of Transportation (USDOT) that employs safety-sensitive transportation employees must have at least one qualified and licensed Designated Employee Representative (DER). DER positions are very common in the drug and alcohol testing industry and it is recommended that each employer designate a ‘DER’ even if they do not need to comply with DOT regulations. Other position titles such as Safety Manager/Director, Human Resources personnel and Manager/Owner are usually synonymous with the DER’s job responsibilities. The DER cannot be a third party ‘service provider’ (TPA) as the liability for instituting a compliant drug free workplace rests with the employer. This is explicitly stated by the USDOT HERE. That said, a good TPA will provide guidance and assist in the training and support of the DER.

The DER has several primary responsibilities:

  • Maintaining confidentiality of employee information, sharing with management only on a ‘need to know’ basis
  • Record keeping: This is very important in the event of employment dispute or audit from a regulatory entity

  • Completing employment screenings prior to prospective employee beginning work. This may include background checks, physicals, pre-employment drug screens, reference checks, etc. depending on company industry and policy.

  • Ensuring employee and manager education is up to date

  • Ensuring random testing is completed in a timely manner (if applicable): This may mean either directly notifying employees or communicating timelines and selections to Managers.

  • Providing resources for employees who request assistance. The DER should be prepared to provide information about regional resources for rehabilitation, substance abuse professionals, and the Employee Assistance Program (if available). 

  • Interfacing with service providers (Third Party Administrators, Medical Review Officers, Collection Facilities, Laboratories, etc.) as needed.

  • Enforcing and updating the empoloyer drug/alcohol policy

Manager with Reasonable Suspicion Training

DOT regulated companies are required to have at least one manager that is trained in ‘Reasonable Suspicion’. Reasonable Suspicion training will teach a manager how to identify signs or symptoms of substance abuse and how to appropriately confront their employee, document the instance and escort the employee for testing.

PROCOM provides this training live and has resources for the course to be taken online. To submit a request for training, send us an note using our Contact Page

If you are unsure about whether your manager should have this training, refer to the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) Drug & Alcohol Supervisor Training Guidance quick-guide. Click HERE.


Reasonable Suspicion Training

Identifying and confronting an employee who is acting abnormal is not an easy task. The goal of the Reasonable Suspicion Training is to help supervisors become confident in determining whether a test should be issued to an employee and how to address the issue. PROCOM can provide the tools they need to be secure in their confrontation tactics and DOT compliance.

There are several options for Reasonable Suspicion Training:

  • In-person classes are recommended because they provide the most thorough overall experience. The courses will last at least two hours, with the first hour spent on Reasonable Suspicion processes and the documentation required, and the second hour focused on the signs and symptoms of common drugs. We offer training regularly in Colorado; please inquire about upcoming opportunities.

  • Online courses are definitely not in short supply, but choosing the best course can be frustrating. Our clients have found the Lifeloc course has good value for a virtual outlet. Their course offering can be viewed HERE.

  • The DOT (Federal Transit Administration) created an awareness video which is accessible HERE.

    • This video does not satisfy the 120 training minutes requirement but if this route is chosen we recommend this resources in conjunction with another course. 

Employee Training

PROCOM is here to support your company with compliance, education and training for not only your administrative staff but your employees as well. Employees should know what, if any, regulations they are required to follow and what the company-specific policies are.

DOT has an employee handbook that can be used for both DOT regulated and non-regulated companies. Open “What Employees Need to Know About DOT Drug & Alcohol Testing” document for more shareable details on compliance.

PROCOM actively gives presentations to employees in Colorado about drug testing in the workplace. Please contact us should you be interested in attending one of our seminars or scheduling a speaker for a company meeting.

Record Keeping

There are two types of drug testing files which are required to be kept by all DOT regulated companies: Program Files and Employee Files. Program Files can apply across an entire company and contain information such as the DOT Drug Policy, consortium enrollment and statistics and information on service providers. Driver files must be kept for every DOT employee.

We understand that paperwork can become overwhelming and difficult to track. PROCOM helps alleviate the stress of so much documentation by providing our clients with easy to follow checklists and sample forms. Examples of these forms are provided by the below links:

Program Files

Employee Files

Record Keeping Requirements

The DOT requires drug and alcohol testing records be retained and available for inspection in the event of an audit. Generally speaking, 3 years is sufficient for most records with the notable exception of positive drug/alcohol testing results which need to be kept for 5 years. Below is a chart which shows how long the FMCSA requires each type of record to be retained.

FMCSA Record Keeping Requirements

PROCOM maintains a backup copy of much of the required documentation. We maintain all drug testing results for 3 years, and all positive results for 5 years. We also can access consortium and company testing statistics going back decades. Should you need assistance in filling-in your records don't hesitate to Contact Us.

**Owner Operator Exceptions**

DOT regulated carrier owner-operators are considered their own entity, which means they are assuming the position as a Designated Employee Representative for themselves. Compared to a regular employer, the owner-operator does not require Reasonable Suspicion Training. The owner-operator is, however, responsible for adhering to DOT compliance laws and record tracking. PROCOM can assist a owner-operator with drug testing consortium needs and record keeping support. If the owner-operator were ever audited PROCOM could help establish compliance.

Key Decision Points

Some employers have little choice in what type of program they implement as their policy must align with the requirements of a regulatory entity, while others have a large amount of leeway in how they choose to test. There are two primary decision points for both DOT and nonDOT policies: who should the policy apply to, and how to react to a positive test result.

Positive Results: Zero Tolerance vs. Rehabilitation

A drug testing policy must outline the consequences for an employee who tests positive for a controlled substance. There are certain requirements by the DOT, such as: immediate suspension of all safety sensitive functions, evaluation by a Substance Abuse Professional, and further drug testing (See Return to Duty section for further detail about DOT requirements). The employer, however, can determine if they wish to allow that employee to continue to work for them - and perhaps financially support them through the above process. Should the employer allow an employee to remain employed they have selected a ‘Rehabilitation’ policy; conversely, should they wish to draw a strict line and have termination be the result of any positive test then they would write a policy with ‘Zero Tolerance’.

This is a tricky decision for many companies. Let’s talk through a common scenario that our clients run into. A company decides that they want to have a zero tolerance policy and then, perhaps years later, a family member who works for the company tests positive for a controlled substance. Per the company policy that family member would need to be terminated from employment. We often hear the question, “I’m the owner, can I not just change the policy?” The answer of course is yes, you can modify your policy. However, the optics of accommodating individuals may be perceived very poorly within your organization and making ‘retroactive’ changes creates legal risk. The opposite happens just as often - someone tests positive for a substance and the company would like to terminate them, but the employee agrees to abide by the rehab process and thus continues their employment. PROCOM can help you decide which is the best policy for your organization.

Employee classes: who should get what policy?

Some employment policies apply to an entire organization and other are carved out for different classes of employees. For example, a distributing company may wish to have their sales and office staff tested differently than their DOT regulated commercial drivers. In that case the employer would need to develop two policies with clear delineations between employee types.

However, having multiple policies can be confusing. Many employers choose to keep them as close as possible to ensure they are treating both groups equitably, and reduce the risk of not adhering to both policies.

Options for NonDOT Policies

Non Regulated policies often allow for greater flexibility for the employer to design their testing program. Consider questions such as:

  • What types of substances are you testing for (Street drugs and/or prescriptions, alcohol)?
  • In what instances will you require testing (Pre-Employment, Random, Post-Accident)?
  • How will the test be done (Oral fluid, hair, or urine testing)?

All of these questions, and the ones mentioned in the prior section need to be explicitly addressed in your policy. It is okay to update your policy as your company changes and it is often a good idea to - drugs of abuse often change over time. Any time you update your policy it is best practice to have each employee acknowledge the changes so they are aware of the standards to which they will be held.

Applicable Federal Laws to your Compliance Policy

Drug Free Workplace Act of 1988

The Drug Free Workplace Act of 1988 set forth substance abuse criteria for some federal contractors and all federal grantees as a condition of receiving a contract or grant from a federal agency. The Act does not apply to companies who do not have, nor intend to apply for, contracts/grants from the federal government. Covered entities are required by law to establish and maintain a drug-free workplace policy.

The act is applicable to any organization who receives a federal contract of $100,000 or more, or any organization who receives a federal grant of any size. Each federal contract/grant stands on its own in this regard and, technically, only employees involved in the contract are covered by the act. Employers may be able to only enforce a drug-free workplace for only the portion of their employees involved in the contract. However, as discussed in the Key Decision Points above, this can get messy and is often easier to institute a company-wide policy for consistency in adoption.

The act leaves a lot of room for interpretation as to the specifics of the drug free workplace policy, but at a minimum the organization must:

  • Prepare and distribute a formal drug-free workplace policy statement. This statement should clearly prohibit the manufacture, use, and distribution of controlled substances in the workplace and spell out the specific consequences of violating this policy.
  • Establish a drug-free awareness program. This program should inform employees of the dangers of workplace substance use; review the requirements of the organization's drug-free workplace policy; and offer information about any counseling, rehabilitation, or employee assistance programs (EAPs) that may be available.
  • Ensure that all employees working on the federal contract understand their personal reporting obligations. Under the terms of the Drug-Free Workplace Act, an employee must notify the employer within five calendar days if he or she is convicted of a criminal drug violation.
  • Notify the federal contracting agency of any covered violation. Under the terms of the Drug-free Workplace Act, the employer has 10 days to report that a covered employee has been convicted of criminal drug violation.
  • Take direct action against an employee convicted of a workplace drug violation. This action may involve imposing a penalty or requiring the offender to participate in an appropriate rehabilitation or counseling program.
  • Maintain an ongoing good faith effort to meet all the requirements of the Drug-free Workplace Act throughout the life of the contract. Covered organizations must demonstrate their intentions and actions toward maintaining a drug-free workplace. Their failure to comply with terms of the Drug-Free Workplace Act may result in a variety of penalties, including suspension or termination of their grants/contracts and being prohibited from applying for future government funding.

There are several consequences an organization may face as the result of failing to comply with the requirements of the Drug Free Workplace Act of 1988.

  • Payments for contract or grant activities may be suspended.
  • Contract or grant may be suspended or terminated.
  • Contractor or grantee may be prohibited from receiving or participating in any future contracts or grants awarded by any federal agency for a specified period, not to exceed five years.
  • Compliance with the Act’s requirements is reviewed as part of normal federal contract and grant administration and auditing procedures.

OSHA Non-Retaliatory Post Accident Testing

New regulations issued by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regarding Recording and Reporting Occupational Injuries and Illnesses became effective on December 1, 2016. The regulations prohibit employers from retaliating against employees for reporting workplace injuries and illnesses (OSHA 29 CFR 1904). While in practice this sounds like a great thing, it has created a great amount of confusion around drug testing policies. Prior to this rule, it had been acceptable for all drug testing policies to simply state that their employees were subject to Drug / Alcohol testing after any injury or damage. This rule introduces the idea that post-accident drug and alcohol testing can be construed as a retaliatory practice. Let’s use an example - someone has a repetitive motion injury and then must take a drug and alcohol test. The testing may be viewed as a deterrent to reporting the injury.

This ruling has since been over turned, but recognizing the intent of the rule allows us to give some guidance around how to develop the policy; a couple guidelines:

  • Post-accident drug and alcohol testing is still allowed.
  • There must be a “reasonable possibility” that drug or alcohol use caused or contributed to the reported injury or illness to justify requiring the employee to submit to a drug and/or alcohol test.
  • This increases the importance of having managers trained in ‘Reasonable Suspicion’ and applying their knowledge to the accident to determine if testing is warranted. They needn’t have suspicion of the individual, per se, but must have a reasonable basis to investigate whether drug or alcohol usage contributed to the damage.
  • Some drug testing policies (for non-exempt companies, see below) should be reviewed to modify blanket requirements for post-injury or post-accident drug or alcohol testing as these could be considered a violation by OSHA.

Exemptions: All federally regulated testing requirements (DOT, HHS, etc.) are exempt from this regulation, as are state workers’ compensation testing provisions or testing under a state drug-free workplace program to comply with workers’ compensation provisions. Furthermore, it does not apply to pre-employment, reasonable suspicion, random, return-to-duty, or follow-up testing.

Americans with Disabilities (ADA) rules

An employer establishing a drug testing policy should take the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) into account.

The ADA does not prevent an employer from taking steps to combat the use of drugs and alcohol in the workplace. It specifically allows an employer to prohibit the use of drugs and alcohol in the workplace and to prohibit employees from being under the influence of drugs or alcohol at work. An employer can discharge or deny employment to current users of illegal drugs without fear of being held liable for disability discrimination.

Government Regulated Industries/Functions

There are a number of industries which do need to comply with Federal Regulations. We cover these in depth in the DOT section.

Applicable State Laws to your Compliance Policy

Despite the aforementioned instances of federal laws, there is no truly overarching federal requirements or guidelines for drug/alcohol testing. This leaves the door open to states to address workplace drug use and drug testing. Some states require employers to put their testing program in writing. Other states prohibit disciplinary actions against employees who test positive without a second confirming test, or they require that testing be performed only in state-approved labs. Because states have their own approach to drug testing issues, employers should carefully review the law in the states in which they operate before they adopt a drug testing policy.

There are 12 states which have mandatory rules which must be followed for any non-federally regulated drug testing program. These states are: Connecticut, Hawaii, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Oregon, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, and Vermont.

Here is a great resource for determining state by state laws.

Templates / Samples

Disclaimer: These policies are intended for informational purposes only. We do not represent that they will suit your individual needs nor that they have been updated for any recent changes in regulations. As employee policies are legal documents they should be reviewed by legal counsel.

For DOT testing, please see this document to see if your policy is meeting the minimum requirements:

        Policy Design Considerations

DOT Drug Testing Policy Samples:

       Zero Tolerance Policy

       Rehabilitation Policy