Reasonable Suspicion Drug & Alcohol Testing


Effective Date: Expiration Date: Chapters:
Oct. 6, 2017 Nov. 2, 2022 4  


Employees' use or impairment by drugs or alcohol threatens the safety of our coworkers, the public we serve and the integrity of the District government. Managers and supervisors have an obligation to be observant and take remedial steps whenever an employee is suspected of being impaired by drugs or alcohol. The purpose of this instruction is to provide guidance on administering reasonable suspicion referrals under the D.C. Department of Human Resources Drug and Alcohol Testing Program. 

A Drug Free Workplace

The District government provides its employees with a drug-free workplace. For this reason, employees may not engage in the unlawful manufacturing, distribution, dispensing, possession, or use of a controlled substance while on duty. Employees are also prohibited from using, possessing, or being impaired by any drug or alcohol at work.

Whenever there is a reasonable suspicion that an employee is working while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, he or she shall be subject to drug and alcohol testing. Any employee who tests positive for drugs or alcohol shall be subject to disciplinary action. 

Manager and Supervisor Training

Before an employee may be subjected to a reasonable suspicion drug and alcohol test, a trained manager or supervisor must record his or her observations of the employee that warrant the testing. All managers and supervisors shall participate in reasonable suspicion training as outlined below. 

  1. Frequency. Managers and supervisors shall participate in reasonable suspicion training within 60 days of appointment to a supervisory position and at least once every two years.
  2. Training Provider. Reasonable suspicion training shall be administered through DCHR, or a qualified vendor approved by DCHR.
  3. Content. Training shall include -
    1. physical, behavioral, speech, and performance indicators of possible alcohol or drug impairment; and
    2. the confidentiality obligations of supervisors and managers relating to an employee’s suspected impairment and test results.

Reasonable Suspicion

When a trained manager or supervisor sees an employee exhibiting signs of impairment that may be related to the use of drugs or alcohol, the manager or supervisor must record his or her observations of the employee on a Reasonable Suspicion Observation Form. Observations that should be recorded include, but are not limited to, the employee’s current appearance, behavior, speech, or smells that are usually associated with drug or alcohol use. Whenever possible, a second trained supervisor or manager should complete a separate observation form, as well. 

An incident report or similar document detailing the events from everyone involved shall also accompany the form. The Reasonable Suspicion Observation Form must be submitted to DCHR’s Compliance Team within 24 hours of the observed behavior or before the test results are released, whichever is earlier.

Some Signs of Impairment
1. Bloodshot eyes, pupils larger or smaller than usual
2. Unusually disheveled physical appearance
3. Falling asleep or fainting
4. Tremors, slurred speech, or impaired coordination
5. Unusual smells on breath, body, or clothing

Process for Making Referrals

After a supervisor or manager observes an employee who has exhibited signs of impairment and immediately documents his or her findings using the Reasonable Suspicion Observation Form, the supervisor or manager must refer the employee for testing by following these steps: 

  1. Make the referral to DCHR. Report your suspicions and provide the Reasonable Suspicion Observation form and supporting documents to either of the below representatives on DCHR’s Compliance team via email and telephone and notify your agency MDAT Coordinator or HR Advisors of the referral.
Business Hours Collections

Torey Draughn, Compliance Specialist

(202) 442-9689

Tamika Cambridge, Compliance Manager

(202) 306-7221

After Hours Collections
In the event that an employee needs to be tested outside of normal business hours, contact Cherry Collections at (301) 792-5205 for a collector. The collection company will arrange the collection with the collector, agency’s representative, and employee’s supervisor.
  1. Receive confirmation. DCHR’s Compliance Team will review the information provided and determine if testing is warranted. If testing is not warranted, the agency will receive communication to end reasonable suspicion efforts. If testing is warranted, DCHR will notify the agency’s point of contact of the time and location for the drug and alcohol testing.
  2. Prepare the employee for Testing. The supervisor or manager should meet with the employee privately to discuss his or her suspicion and the next steps. During this meeting, the supervisor or manager will inform the employee that he or she will be receiving a drug and alcohol test. The reporting supervisor or manager must remain with the employee until completion of the testing process. Union employees are entitled to representation from the first available union representative if requested.
  3. Special procedures for alcohol testing. A reasonable suspicion alcohol test should be conducted within two (2) hours, and no more than eight (8) hours, of the observation. If a reasonable suspicion alcohol test is not administered within two (2) hours following the observation, the supervisor shall prepare a written record that will be sent to DCHR’s Compliance Team stating the reason(s) the test was not administered promptly. If a reasonable suspicion alcohol test is not administered within eight (8) hours following the observation, attempts to administer the test shall cease, and the supervisor shall prepare the record noted above, to be maintained by DCHR’s Compliance Team.
  4. After the testing. After the employee completes the required tests, he or she shall be relieved from his or her duties for the day and placed on administrative leave. No supervisor or manager shall permit an employee who he or she suspects of being under the influence to drive home. Instead, managers must take all necessary steps to ensure the employee is transported home safely. The employee should remain on administrative leave until the testing results are received.

Suitability Determinations

Upon receipt of the results of the applicable test(s), DCHR’s Compliance Team will issue an electronic suitability notification via email. 

Negative Test Results

The employee will be deemed suitable if the results are negative. The notification will state that the employee’s test results were negative and that he or she is suitable for continued employment. Agencies should take the following steps after receiving a suitable notification:

  1. Prepare and serve the employee with a return to duty notice; and
  2. Discuss with the employee why the test was conducted, the test results and, if performance or conduct are implicated, expectations going forward.

Positive Test Results

If the test results are positive, the outcome depends on the nature of the position occupied by the employee. If the position is “safety-sensitive,” pursuant to Chapter 4 of the District Personnel Manual, the employee will be deemed unsuitable for continued employment in the position. If the position is not “safety-sensitive,” the employing agency will take disciplinary action consistent with its practices and procedures.

Safety-Sensitive Employees

When a safety-sensitive employee is found unsuitable due to a reasonable suspicion drug test, the agency must immediately send the materials listed below to DCHR’s Compliance Team. The Compliance Team will provide the agency additional guidance on next steps

  1. Position description;
  2. Previous progressive disciplinary actions;
  3. Personnel evaluations for the last 3 years;
  4. Completed Reasonable Suspicion Form;
  5. Sworn affidavit(s); and
  6. Collective bargaining agreement, if applicable.

General Population Employees (not Safety-Sensitive)

For employees not occupying safety-sensitive positions, DCHR’s Compliance Team will notify the agency of the results. The agency must take either corrective or adverse action, consistent with its past practice, internal policies, and Chapter 16 of the District Personnel Manual.


  • D.C. Mun. Regs. tit. 6B, § 400 et seq. (2017). 
  • Mayor’s Order 90-27, Drug Free Workplace Policy


All District government employees including those in independent agencies who are subject to Chapter 4 of the D.C. personnel regulations, are subject to reasonable suspicion drug and alcohol testing. 

Additional Information

For additional information concerning this instruction, please contact the Department of Human Resources, Policy and Compliance Administration, by calling (202) 442-9700 or by sending an e-mail to 


  1. I-4-39