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Why Do My Supervisors Need Reasonable Suspicion Training?

By Andrew David Easler, Esq.

Do you employ safety-sensitive workers that must have DOT drug and alcohol tests, such as those who manage drivers or railroad workers? Do you manage a DOT drug or alcohol testing program? If the answer is yes to either of these questions, then it is likely that your managers or supervisors will require reasonable suspicion training 1.

What is Reasonable Suspicion Training?

Reasonable suspicion training, or reasonable cause training, helps a person understand the symptoms of drug and alcohol use. If a company employee in a managerial position suspects an employee is under the influence of alcohol or drugs, the supervisor must have been previously trained to detect the signs of drug use to order a DOT exam [2].

What are the Requirements for Drug Testing an Employee Once a Supervisor Has Become Suspicious?

Part of the reasonable suspicion training will include not only noticing the signs of drug use, but also how a manager must approach conducting a test for drugs or alcohol.  That process will look something like this:

  • A trained supervisor (or company official) suspects an employee is on drugs or intoxicated by noting appearance, behavior, speech, or smell that is indicative of drug or alcohol use.
  • The trained supervisor must then consult another trained supervisor or company official for collaboration. This second company official does not need to be on-site; however, at least one of the DOT-trained supervisors must be on the premises with the employee.
  • Then, and only then, can the supervisor that is present at the situation document his or her observations and make the decision to drug or alcohol test an employee.

Why Do My Supervisors Need Reasonable Suspicion Training?

In short, a company is required to test an employee if the manager observes signs that the employee is under the influence [3]. If the training has not been conducted, an otherwise competent supervisor may make mistakes that the company would then be liable for. Some of those mistakes include:

  • Failing to properly notice that a person may be under the influence of drugs or alcohol. [4]
  • Incorrectly making the call to drug test an employee based on a complaint from another person or an email or phone tip from a source that is not a trained supervisor.
  • Failing to document the process that leads the supervisor to their conclusion that the employee may be under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
  • Incorrectly identifying the correct and specific observations a supervisor (or company official) MUST make before recommending a drug test be done.
  • Failing to consult a secondary company official.

FMCSA 49 CFR Part 382.603 makes it clear that the legal requirement is 60 minutes of both drug and alcohol misuse training [5] to be considered trained for reasonable suspicion. Because the time commitment is so minor, there is not a reason not to get your supervisors trained as soon as possible.

[1] https://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/us-department-transportation-dot-drug-alcohol-supervisor-training-guidance

[2] https://www.transportation.gov/sites/dot.gov/files/docs/ODAPC_Employer_Guidelines_%20June_1_2015_A.pdf

[3] See http://www.ppta.net/pdf/ReasonableSuspicionTestingSupervisorManual%20.pdf for more information.

[4] https://www.transportation.gov/odapc/ask-us-question

[5] https://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/regulations/drug-alcohol-testing/what-are-my-employee-and-supervisor-training-responsibilities

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