By Nye, Sandra G.
The Journal of Employee Assistance , Vol. 41, No. 1
The Drug Free Workplace Act, passed in 1988, was a pioneering effort of the federal government to address the increasing problem of substance abuse in the workplace. It included a requirement that any business wishing to engage in business with any federal agency for procurement of property or services, as defined by the Act, agreed to establish and provide a drug-free workplace.
This involved publishing a statement to the effect that unlawful manufacture, distribution, dispensation, possession, or use of a controlled substance is prohibited in the workplace, and that actions will be taken against employees who violate this prohibition. Additionally, among other things, employers are also required to establish an awareness program to inform employees about the dangers of drug abuse in the workplace, the employer's drug-free policy and available programs to help employees (EAP is specifically mentioned), and penalties.
The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) became active in the substance abuse arena and implemented workplace drug and alcohol testing programs specific to employees involved in transportation on federal roads. States followed suit with similar programs. The concept of the Substance Abuse Professional (SAP) was outlined in the DOT regulations as: a professional, specially trained person who evaluates employees who have violated a DOT drug and alcohol regulation, and who makes recommendations regarding education, treatment, follow-up testing, and aftercare. The regulations require that a DOT-recognized SAP be a:
Licensed or certified social worker;
* Employee Assistance (EA) professional;
* Marriage and family therapist;
* Licensed physician; and/or an
* Alcohol and drug abuse counselor.
A SAP is not considered an advocate for the employer or employee, but rather a protector of public safety. The DOT insists that SAPs fully understand and comply with the regulations and emphasizes the need for knowledge of 49CFR (Code of Federal Regulations) Part 40--and directs that particular attention be paid to the following Subparts:
* Subpart O--SAP and Return-to-Duty Process;
* Subpart P--Confidentiality and Release of Information;
* Subpart Q--Roles and Responsibilities of Service Agents;
* Subpart R--Public Interest Exclusions; and
* Appendix E to Part 40--SAP equivalency requirements for Certification Organizations.
These and other essential materials are available on the DOT website at www.dot.gov. Most importantly, the DOT recently issued new regulations, which became effective Oct. 1, 2010. These regulations update transportation workplace drug and alcohol testing procedures--and are available online at www. …