An American Airlines pilot was fired and had his pilot license revoked by the FAA after a botched drug test situation. He’s now getting some justice in court.
American pilot didn’t take drug test intended for someone else
Airline pilots are subjected to random drug testing, which is totally fair when you consider how much responsibility they have. Here’s a case where someone got fired over a drug test situation, even though they had nothing to hide.
DeWitt Ingram, who is now 64 years old, spent 21 years flying for American Airlines. Unfortunately his career ended abruptly in August 2020. He had just landed in Miami after working a flight. An employee for Eulen America, the ground services company that does drug testing for American Airlines, asked the flight attendant at the door for a pilot named “David.”
Since random drug testing is performed by the contractor asking for a specific employee, Ingram informed the person that his name wasn’t David, and at that point he walked up the jet bridge and into the terminal.
The following morning, Ingram awoke to several voicemails from American Airlines’ flight department, expressing shock that he refused to take a drug and alcohol test. The contract worker performing the test had allegedly marked him as having refused to take the test.
Given that he was upset by this misunderstanding, he scheduled tests, including a blood test, which showed he had no drugs or alcohol in his system. Admittedly alcohol might have been out of his system at that point, but we have no reason to believe that was an issue, since the test was random (and not due to any suspicion).
Despite that, American Airlines fired him two months later, and the airline requested that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) revoke his license.
Unfortunately this incident has completely changed his life. As Ingram explains:
“That night was the end of all pay and benefits. I’ve exhausted my 401K and sold stock and two cars to survive. Never in my worst nightmare could I have dreamed my happy world of personal and professional achievement and pride could end so disastrously as it did. It’s been a long dark hole in the ground prison — alone and told repeatedly to never tell anyone so as to protect me.”
Court sides with fired pilot
While this incident happened over two years ago, details are only now emerging, as this case is being heard in court, where Ingram is getting some vindication.
A judge has ruled that the FAA took away Ingram’s license illegally. Furthermore, a judge is allowing his lawsuit to proceed in order to get compensation, as he is suing both American Airlines and Eulen America, the company that performed the drug test. The two companies were seeking a dismissal.
American Airlines and the FAA essentially took the stance that his failure to complete the test constituted a refusal, while the pilot repeatedly and consistently insisted that he had never been notified that he was selected for a random test, since the contractor said it was for someone named “David.”
Unfortunately even with a judge ruling in favor of Ingram, he’ll never be able to fly for an airline again. He’s turning 65 in January 2023, which is the retirement age for pilots.
What a terrible, cruel story…
This is one of those situations where you almost have to wonder if there’s more to the story that’s not known. However, with a judge having now ruled on the case, it seems pretty clear that this is roughly what happened.
How is it possible that a pilot not only gets fired but has his license revoked by the FAA over what amounts to a miscommunication? You might assume “well maybe he had something to hide,” but clearly that’s not the case, because he then volunteered to take a test, and had no drugs in his system.
Also, how was the union not able to do something to help? Isn’t this one of the main purposes of unions, to defend employees in situations like this?
Now, of course in retrospect, I think it’s worth acknowledging that there might have been a better way to handle this. Airlines take drug testing very seriously, and have zero tolerance with this kind of stuff.
If a contractor came up looking for a pilot who wasn’t on the flight, it might make sense to stick around and take some time to clarify, rather than just walking off and moving on with your day. Did the contractor just pronounce the name incorrectly (I could see how “David” could sound like “DeWitt”), or was the name verified in writing, and didn’t match?
At least that seems like a good way to cover your rear. But I guess hindsight is 20/20, so…
In August 2020, an American Airlines pilot was approached by a contractor to take a drug test. The issue was that the drug test was allegedly for someone else, so the pilot didn’t take it. Two months later, he was fired from the airline, and even had his license revoked by the FAA.
This case is just now going through court, and the pilot is finally getting some justice. A judge ruled that the FAA illegally revoked his license, and he can now proceed with suing both the airline and the company behind the drug test.
I hope this guy gets a nice settlement for all the pay he lost, and then some…
What do you make of this American Airlines drug test story?