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Horizon Air Files Lawsuit To Stop Pilots Rehire Order After Failed Drug Test
By Mike Mitchell

April 23, 2013 - Horizon Air operates as a drug free workplace and as a matter of policy conducts random drug test on its employees. As a common carrier the company is required by the Department of Transportation (DOT) and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to conduct random drug and alcohol tests on its (safety sensitive positions) pilots through its Integrated Drug and Alcohol Program (IDAP).  

On November 4, 2011, First Officer ("co-pilot") Brian Milam after completing a roundtrip flight from Sea-Tac Airport to Redmond, Oregon was requested to take a drug test. After he submitted to a drug test, Milam acting as First Officer flew another roundtrip flight from Seattle to Spokane and back to Seattle, Washington. 

On November 17, 2011, Milam received a letter from Horizon Air indicating that he failed the company’s drug test, the test showed use of marijuana. Milam was informed he could not continue to work in his safety sensitive position as a pilot.  


Milam was instructed to participate in a Substance Abuse Professional (SAP) evaluation. Milam had been using marijuana due to a back injury and other medical conditions. Milam enrolled (voluntarily) and completed a treatment program where he attended over 15 sessions.

Milam allegedly admitted to smoking marijuana about 3 times a week during the 6 months prior to failing his drug test, flew roughly 84 days during that period and he never used marijuana while on duty and refrained from smoking the night before an early shift.

On November 21, 2011, company officials set up a meeting with Milam. In attendance were Chief Pilot Gordon Smith, Chris Lewless and Dan Johnson from the company’s employee relations and by telephone attorney Chris Peifer from the (union) Airline Professionals Association, Teamsters Local 1224. Milam was informed at the meeting that another test could be conducted. However, Milam stated there was no need. At which point Milam was handed a termination letter.

While employed with the company Milam had no accidents or incidents and received a letter of recognition, although he did have an attendance problem. Milam appealed his case before Airline Professionals Association and two days later the union filed a grievance.



On September 11, 2012, a grievance hearing for Milam was held with Horizon Air Pilots’ System Board of Adjustment. Arbitrator Cliff Freed presided over the hearing at which time testimony was given by both sides. On February 11, 2013, the Board issued its opinion and order. It found the Milam violated the company’s drug and alcohol policy, his attendance was poor and he violated the trust between the company and its customers. However, because the company failed to review all company records as it pertained to Milam before it terminated Milam as required by the company’s Integrated Drug and Alcohol Program (IDAP) the Board ordered Horizon Air to reinstate Milam to his same potion subject to a Last Chance Agreement and other conditions.

On April 16, 2013, Horizon Air filed a lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Western District of Washington (Seattle) to petition to vacate the arbitration award by the Pilots’ System Board of Adjustment (Horizon Air Industries Inc v. Airline Professionals Association, Teamsters Local 1224 Assigned to Judge Ricardo S Martinez. CASE #2:13-cv-00681-RSM).

Horizon Air Industries, Inc. operating as Horizon Air is a regional airline based in SeaTac, Washington, United States. It is the eighth largest regional airline in the USA, serving 52 cities in the United States, Canada and Mexico. Horizon Air and its sister carrier Alaska Airlines are subsidiaries of Alaska Air Group. It is also a substantial codeshare partner of American Airlines and Delta Air Lines.

Horizon Air filed its lawsuit on the grounds that Milam violated company policy and trust of the company and its customers when he failed a drug and alcohol test and acted as a pilot, and the Pilots’ System Board of Adjustment failed to confine itself to matters within its jurisdiction. Horizon Air requested that the court vacate the boards award.

An attorney for Horizon Air said “Horizon is not willing to place an impaired pilot back in the cockpit. Doing so would violate federal law and contravene a well settled public policy prohibiting a pilot from flying while using drugs.”

Airline Professionals Association Teamsters Local 1224 President Daniel C. Wells said in a statement “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”.

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