What Is Considered a Drug Test Refusal?

Drug test refusal accounts for 13.8% of DOT drug test violations. That means that roughly 1 out of every 7 failed drug tests is the result of someone declining to comply. Not sure what is or isn’t considered drug test refusal in the eyes of the DOT? Read on to learn the definition and consequences of refusing a drug test. 

Definition of DOT Drug Test Refusal

According to DOT Rule 49 CFR Part 40 Section 40.191, a drug test is marked as “refusal” if an employee meets one of the following requirements:

  • Fail to show up for a DOT drug test “within a reasonable time,” as determined by DOT regulations and the employer.
  • Fail to provide a urine sample for drug testing.
  • Fail to remain at the test site until the drug test is complete (not considered for pre-employment testing). 
  • Fail to permit observation during a monitored collection (not required for all DOT drug tests).
  • Fail to provide adequate urine for analysis without a medically valid reason.
  • Fail to cooperate with part of the testing process, such as emptying your pockets when prompted.
  • Fail to complete additional drug testing, if needed.
  • Admit to altering the urine specimen.

Other organizations may have different policies regarding drug test refusal, but these are the rules according to the Department of Transportation. If you refuse any part of the drug test or fail to show up within the designated time, you’ll have to complete a series of steps before returning to work. 

Will Refusing a Drug Test Get Me Fired?

The decision to fire you after a failed drug test is at your employer’s discretion. The DOT has no rules regarding the state of your employment. However, they do require your employer to remove you from safety-sensitive job duties until you’ve completed the Return-to-Duty process. 

In other words, you may not be fired, but you also may not be working. Your employer may provide tasks to complete that are not safety-sensitive, but in most cases, you’ll have to complete your RTD without pay and then start working after the process is complete. 

What to Do Instead of Refusing a Drug Test

You may have a justifiable reason for refusing a drug test. Nevertheless, the general recommendation is to comply with each step in the test and then file a dispute afterward. There is a small window of time for most drug tests to be completed – specifically post-accident and random drug tests. If you fail to comply within that time frame, you’ll “fail” the test. Even if you have no prohibited substances in your system.

If you complete the drug test and dispute it afterward, you’ll be able to continue working as long as the test results do not come back negative. 

What to Expect After You Refuse a DOT Drug Test

If you refuse a DOT drug test, you’ll need to complete the Return-to-Duty process with a DOT-qualified Substance Abuse Professional (SAP). Your SAP will provide a list of tasks, treatments, or courses to complete before you can return to work. After completing these steps, you’ll need to pass a follow-up drug test to resume your previous job. Once again, it’s up to your employer to reinstate you or terminate your employment. 

Find an SAP

A Substance Abuse Professional (SAP) is a person who helps DOT-regulated employees return to work after a DOT violation has occurred, such as a failed drug and/or alcohol test or a refusal to test. Companies like American Substance Abuse Professionals have a longstanding track record of getting DOT-regulated employees back to work after drug test refusals and failed drug tests. They will help you find an SAP in your area, or in some cases, you may be able to work remotely with an SAP.