Non-DOT Drug Testing: What You Need to Know

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Substance abuse—whether it’s alcohol, illegal drugs, or even legally prescribed medications—poses huge risks to businesses of all sizes. If left unchecked, abuse can cost employers billions each year on everything from healthcare costs to lost productivity.

If you think your company doesn’t need to drug test, just remember that the vast majority of drug-abusers are employed! A solid drug testing program helps weed out problems before the damage is done.

What is a Non-DOT Drug Test?

In the most basic terms, a Non-DOT drug test is a drug test given to a worker in an industry that is not regulated by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT).

There are two distinct worlds when it comes to drug testing. One realm applies to industries regulated by the DOT. If you fly a plane, drive a train or truck, or transport hazardous materials, you likely fall under the rules of the DOT when it comes to drug testing.

Otherwise, you are in a non-regulated industry. Testing done on employees in a non-regulated industry is referred to as Non-DOT drug testing. A Non-DOT drug test is essentially whatever the employer decides meets the company’s needs and is codified in their company drug testing policy. The timing is up to the employer, as well as the type of testing. They could choose to test urine, oral fluid, hair, or a combination of the three after taking into account applicable legal regulations and considerations.

There are very few federal laws regarding Non-DOT drug testing, but there are state and local regulations, workers’ compensation, and unemployment laws that could have an effect on drug testing programs. A majority of these rules are voluntary, but following them could earn companies benefits like discounts on workers’ compensation premiums.

What does a Non-DOT Drug Test Consist Of?

A non-DOT drug test can consist of a 5 drug panel or be expanded to a 10-panel. The 5-panel tests for marijuana, cocaine, opiates, amphetamines/methamphetamines, and phencyclidine (PCP).

A 10-panel drug test would add barbiturates, benzodiazepines, methadone, methaqualone, and propoxyphene to the list. Non-DOT employers can also choose to test for hallucinogens, anabolic steroids, prescription painkillers and ecstasy.

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What are the Types of Non-DOT Drug Tests?

While the actual test is the same, different drug tests are defined by when the test takes place.

Pre-Employment: Many companies now require all new hires to pass a drug test before starting work. It gives you the chance to keep habitual users out of your workforce. If an applicant is unable to stop using long enough to pass a test, you do not want them on your payroll.

Random: These tests may be done monthly, quarterly, or even annually depending on the company’s needs. Names are generated randomly by a computer program. This type of testing is a huge deterrent since employees never know when their name will be called.

Post-Accident: These tests are usually done after accidents that cause a fatality or injury or could lead to a workers’ compensation claim. It is important for the employer to know if the person responsible for the accident was under the influence. It is essential to spell out the timing for these tests in your drug testing policy so the tests can be done before the drugs can clear the employee’s system. Failing to have a solid protocol could cause you to miss a positive test result.

Reasonable Suspicion: If you are going to utilize this type of test, you need to have supervisors who are trained to spot suspicious behaviors. They are only conducted if a company official can show reason to believe an employee might be under the influence.

Return to Duty: If you allow an employee to return to work after having a positive drug test result, it is a good idea to test them once more to make sure they are no longer using. This test might also be appropriate when an employee returns to work after an accident to be sure they are not impaired by prescription painkillers.

Follow-Up: If an employee is allowed to return to work after passing a Return to Duty drug test, you might also want to consider Follow-Up testing over the next year to be sure he or she does not start using again. This requires several unannounced screens for the employee.

What is the Difference Between DOT and Non-DOT Drug Testing?

A DOT drug test looks for five drugs. This is referred to as a 5-panel screen:

1. Marijuana

2. Cocaine

3. Opiates

4. Amphetamines/methamphetamines

5. PCP

A DOT-approved chain-of-custody form is used during the collection process to ensure proper seizure, transfer, handling and analysis, and a split sample is collected before the specimens are forwarded to the laboratory for testing. A Medical Review Officer (MRO) reviews the results, and the results are reported to the designated reporting agency.

A non-DOT drug test can be the same 5-panel screen, or it can be expanded into a 10-panel by testing for the above five drugs, plus:

6.Benzodiazepines

7. Barbiturates

8. Methadone

9. Propoxyphene 

10:Quaaludes

If desired, hallucinogens, anabolic steroids, prescription painkillers, and ecstasy can also be included in the non-DOT drug test.

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All of EBI’s drug tests are processed in SAMHSA Certified laboratories and all results are reviewed by an MRO to ensure the most accurate results. If a specimen is flagged because of a prescription drug, the MRO will contact the donor to see if they have a legal prescription for the drug.

If so, the test will be marked “negative” and there will be no repercussions. If they cannot prove they are using the drug legally, it will be considered a “positive” test and it will be up to the employer to follow the company disciplinary policy.

Setting Your Drug Testing Policy

The absolute first step for any drug testing is to have a written policy in place. This policy must spell out exactly who will be subject to the drug testing, when the tests will be performed, what types of testing will be utilized and what happens if an employee or applicant fails.

A solid policy should have the following:

Purpose Statement: This is an explanation of why the company does drug testing. That purpost could be to comply with federal or local laws, meet requirements for a customer, contract or insurance carrier, or simply to maintain safety and productivity in your workplace.

Coverage: Most state drug testing laws require policies to say exactly who is covered. That means spelling out job applicants, full time and/or part time employees or just those in safety-sensitive roles. If you are going to test someone, their role needs to be listed.

Prohibited Conduct: An employer needs to explicitly state that a positive drug test will be viewed as a violation of company policy. Other drug related activity such as possession, sale or use of drugs, as well as trying to cheat a drug test, should be listed as violations as well.

What Tests and When: Outline all types of testing you plan to do—whether it is pre-employment, reasonable suspicion, post-accident, random, or a combination.

Consequences: Be sure to speak with your legal counsel to devise this section because there are many state laws that can affect what kind of discipline you can use.

This might seem like a lot of work at the outset, but the flip side is legal liability. If you don’t have a clear, written policy you could be setting your company up for a myriad of lawsuits.

Drug abuse causes a long list of headaches for employers of all sizes. It can decrease productivity, lower employee morale and even put people in danger.

A strong drug testing program can do many things for employers:

  • Create a safe workplace for employees and customers
  • Keep people who use illegal drugs off the payroll
  • Deter current employees from using illegal drugs
  • Identify and offer help to those who are abusing drugs
  • Comply with state or local laws
  • Get discounts on some Workers’ Comp premiums

Click here for more information on EBI’s drug testing programs and to request a personalized demo of our platform.

Drug Testing

Jennifer Gladstone

Posted By: Jennifer Gladstone

Jennifer Gladstone is a news anchor and journalist with more than 20 years of experience in front of the camera. She's worked in several markets, large and small, and has performed nearly every task needed in a newsroom. As EBI’s Screening News Editor, she keeps EBI’s customers and blog subscribers up to date on the latest screening news and legislative alerts affecting companies of all sizes.

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