Seattle-based airline Horizon Air is seeking assistance from a judge to prevent a pot-puffing pilot
from returning to the cockpit.
Pilot Brian Milam was fired after failing a random drug test in November 2011. The pilot later admitted to smoking marijuana to cope with back pain and other issues, seattlepi.com reported Monday.
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The Airline Professionals Association challenged the ruling
in an attempt to get Milam his job back, and an arbitrator subsequently ruled in the union's favor, finding that the airline had failed to fully review the pilot's record prior to terminating him, The Associated Press reported.
Horizon countered the ruling with a suit in federal court last week, asking the judge to throw out the arbitrator's ruling.
"Horizon is not willing to place an impaired pilot back in the cockpit," said Mark Hutcheson, an attorney representing Horizon. "Doing so would violate federal law and contravene a well-settled public policy prohibiting a pilot from flying while using drugs."
Milam was the first Horizon pilot to fail a drug test since the airline began testing in 1989, the lawyer said.
The union issued a statement following the airline's move.
"We are happy with the process that led to the arbitrator's decision in this case and are extremely disappointed with Horizon Air's decision to file a lawsuit following the outcome," APA Teamsters Local 1224 President Daniel C. Wells said.
The airline conducts drug test to meet federal requirements to ensure pilots are not abusing alcohol or using drugs illegally. Milam acknowledged the drug test was properly administered and that he had been smoking marijuana, but never on duty or the night before an early shift, the website reported.
Following the drug test, he successfully completed a treatment regimen.
In the decision issued in February, arbitrator Cliff Freed found Horizon erred in the way it fired Milam.
The airline's employment rules allow employees to keep working if a substance abuse counselor agrees and a review of company records shows the worker's retention is in Horizon's best interest.
Milam's drug counselor found him fit for work, Freed noted; however, according to the arbitrator, Horizon did not review its own records before firing the pilot.
Freed has allowed Milam to return to work.
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