Zero Tolerance for pot smokers working for Airlines
Take your time, sit back, read a little. I can\'t believe this is happening with our airlines and government. Pot-smoking witness gets her job back/Flying High Again Woman admitted using with Danielle\'s parents By Kristen Green UNION-TRIBUNE STAFF WRITER September 26, 2002 The flight attendant who was fired after testifying in David Westerfield\'s trial that she had smoked marijuana with Danielle van Dam\'s parents got her job back this week. Denise Kemal was reinstated as a flight attendant on Southwest Airlines after appealing the company\'s decision to fire her through internal grievance procedures, a company spokeswoman said yesterday. Southwest, which has a zero-tolerance drug policy, fired Kemal in June after she testified in the nationally televised murder trial. Reached yesterday, Kemal said getting her job back feels great, but declined to comment further. When she was fired, Kemal said it had ruined her life. \"I\'ve always wanted to fly,\" she said. \"She just wants to put this behind her,\" said Tom McDaniel, president of Transport Workers Union Local 556, which represented Kemal in the proceedings. The agreement doesn\'t provide back pay for Kemal and requires she undergo regular drug testing. She will return to work immediately. Westerfield was convicted in August of kidnapping and killing the 7-year-old girl, whose parents last saw her alive Feb. 1. The same jury recommended he be executed, and his sentencing is scheduled for Nov. 22. Kemal\'s marijuana smoking \"would have never come out but for what he did,\" said San Diego attorney Spencer Busby, the van Dams\' lawyer. He wrote a letter to Southwest on her behalf. \"She fulfilled her civic duty,\" he said yesterday. \"It would be inappropriate to penalize her for testifying truthfully.\" Kemal took the witness stand June 10, saying she visited the van Dam home Feb. 1 and spent the evening partying with Brenda van Dam. They became friends through their husbands, who both worked at Qualcomm, and Kemal testified they swapped spouses in 2000. Kemal and her husband have since divorced. Kemal testified she and her neighbor Barbara Easton accompanied van Dam to Dad\'s Cafe & Steakhouse in Poway two Fridays in a row, Jan. 25 and Feb. 1. Westerfield was also at the bar, and bought them drinks on both occasions. The women were celebrating Kemal\'s move to Baltimore, where she had been transferred for work. She testified she took a few puffs of a marijuana cigarette both nights. In a July interview, Kemal said she didn\'t regularly smoke marijuana and that she\'d passed all random drug tests during her 31/2-year Southwest employment. She was a good employee, she said, and the airline regularly received letters from passengers commending her. Kemal said she often played games with children on flights and walked up and down the aisle entertaining fidgety babies. The company also has a grievance procedure that allowed her to appeal the decision within 10 days. The company was required to respond within 10 days of the appeal. Kemal took her appeal another step, and flew to Houston to present her case Tuesday to a board composed of two union members and two Southwest officials. An agreement that allowed her to return to work was reached before the hearing. It was Southwest\'s duty to every customer, the ones flying, and the family on the ground, to refuse. It was their duty to show the world, that Zero Tolerance, and the safety of the public comes first. We are in a heightened status of Security; there isn\'t any better time to prove you care. So Let\'s all smoke pot, Police, Firemen, Judges, Airport screeners. Hey, Let\'s get the military involved, hey it\'s only POT. We must show the F.A.A., AND Southwest Airlines that they are responsible for our safety. Please sign this petition, so that the FAA or Southwest will intervene in this situation. By signing we send the message that government, or the citizens of the United States will, not tolerate \"it was only a little pot.\" Ban Denise Kemal.