What Does a Designated Employer Representative Mean?

A Designated Employer Representative (DER) is crucial in any organization, particularly for businesses that comply with U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) regulations or implement drug and alcohol testing for their non-DOT workforce. This role involves a high level of responsibility and a thorough understanding of company policies, procedures, and regulations surrounding drug and alcohol testing.

A DER is an individual appointed by the employer, often an HR professional, safety officer, or someone in a similar leadership position, who manages the employer's drug and alcohol testing program. For example, with a DOT-regulated company, this role is mandated by the federal government and is outlined in 49 CFR Part 40. For non-DOT employers, the role isn't federally required, but organizations that implement drug-free workplace programs often designate a similar position to ensure smooth operation and compliance with local laws or industry standards.

The responsibilities of a DER are diverse and require expertise in various areas of employment law, human resources, and health and safety, and a DER oversees the entire drug and alcohol testing program, ensuring its compliance with federal, state, or local laws and regulations, company policies, and best practices, and must also have a thorough understanding of the employer's policies regarding drug and alcohol use and be able to communicate these to employees.

The role can vary somewhat depending on the organization but typically includes the following responsibilities:

  1. Program Management: The DER oversees the employer's drug and alcohol testing program. This includes ensuring that the program complies with relevant laws and regulations, such as those set out by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) if applicable.

  2. Employee Selection for Testing: DERs often oversee selecting employees for random drug and alcohol testing, following procedures that ensure a fair and unbiased selection process.

  3. Test Results Handling: After tests are performed, the DER receives the results from the Medical Review Officer (MRO) or the Breath Alcohol Technician (BAT). They manage these results confidentially and appropriately.

  4. Communication with Service Agents: The DER communicates with all service agents, such as MROs, Substance Abuse Professionals (SAPs), and testing laboratories.

  5. Determining Consequences: When an employee tests positive, the DER determines the consequences, including removal from safety-sensitive functions, referral to an SAP, or other measures following the employer's policies and applicable laws.

  6. Record Keeping: The DER also keeps records of all drug and alcohol tests conducted, along with their results.

An essential part of the DER's role is managing the selection process for drug and alcohol testing, they must ensure this is done fairly, unbiasedly, often using a randomized process for DOT-regulated employees, and when tests are performed, the DER receives the results from the Medical Review Officer (MRO) or the Breath Alcohol Technician (BAT) and must manage these results confidentially and appropriately, in line with privacy regulations.

The DER is the primary contact point for service agents such as MROs, Substance Abuse Professionals (SAPs), testing laboratories, and collection sites, which requires excellent communication and coordination skills to ensure that all parts of the drug and alcohol testing program function smoothly together.

If an employee tests non-negative (positive) or violates the company's drug and alcohol policies, the DER determines the consequences, and this could involve temporary or permanent removal from safety-sensitive functions, referral to an SAP for assessment and treatment, and other actions following the employer's policies and relevant laws, including maintaining detailed records of all drug and alcohol tests and their results, and they must be kept confidential and secure, and must also ensure the records are readily accessible for audits or inspections by regulatory bodies.

Given the intricate and crucial responsibilities of the DER role, legal awareness training is essential to meet DOT regulations and fulfill specific training requirements outlined in 49 CFR Part 40 and other relevant regulations, and for non-regulated employers, though not federally mandated, it is equally important to ensure that the DER receives comprehensive training to become qualified for the role.

In both cases, proper training plays a pivotal role in enabling the DER to perform effectively and ensures compliance, enhances workplace safety and promotes productivity, and also provides the DER with the skills needed to proficiently manage the drug and alcohol testing program proficiently, thereby minimizing legal risks and fostering a safer, healthier, and more productive work environment.

Ultimately, investing in proper training for the DER is a legal requirement and a strategic choice that facilitates organizational success by ensuring regulatory compliance, safeguarding employees, and promoting overall productivity.

  • Answered by:
  • Published: 07/10/2023
  • Updated: 07/10/2023
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We are an education company, not a law firm. The information and content we provide is for general informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. We make no representations, warranties, or guarantees regarding the accuracy, completeness, or applicability of the content. It is important to always consult with a qualified attorney for specific legal counsel pertaining to your individual circumstances.

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