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Outrage as the FAA Purges Qualified Air Traffic Control Candidates

By Transportation FOXBusiness

A FOX Business investigation, Trouble in the Skies, exposed questionable hiring practices at the FAA and uncovered FAA employees helping job applicants cheat on a key test to become FAA air traffic controllers. But now FOX Business has learned job applicants harmed by the FAA’s questionable and potentially illegal behavior, are having their equal employment opportunity, EEO, complaints assigned to members of the very same organization, within the FAA, that may be responsible for the scandal.

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Jack, not his real name, is a FAA Collegiate Training Initiative, CTI, graduate with a pending EEO complaint against the FAA. He requested that FOX Business not identify him.  Jack is one of 3000 FAA air traffic control job applicants who the FAA had previously qualified and placed into the pipeline to be hired. But in late 2013, the FAA abruptly notified all of them that they would have to start over regardless of the money spent obtaining FAA accredited college degrees and passing FAA administered skills tests. The FAA now uses a controversial personality test called a Biographical Questionnaire to screen job applicants.

The National Black Coalition of Federal Aviation Employees, NBCFAE, successfully lobbied the FAA in 2013 to change its hiring practices and dump the 3000 previously approved air traffic control candidates. FOX Business has obtained an email sent January 25th 2014 from former NBCFAE president Roosevelt Lenard Jr. to an NBCFAE member. The email is slugged “Important Update On ATC (Air Traffic Control) Vacancy Announcement Please Distribute Widely.” It says, “I confirmed yesterday with agency leadership including AHR-1 (office of human resources management) that the agency will not offer jobs to people that may have been in that pipeline. Their words were ‘that list has been purged.’”  Roosevelt Lenard has not returned calls or emails from FOX Business to discuss the matter.  

Jack filed his EEO complaint with the FAA in 2014. He was assigned to FAA EEO counselor Gregory Hill who is also a member of the NBCFAE. Jack calls it a conflict of interest because the NBCFAE is at the center of the hiring changes and cheating scandal Jack says harmed him and the 3000 others the FAA accepted and then rejected. “I was angry about it but questioned how deep does it go in both organizations. I mean the FAA and the NBCFAE in general,” he said.

FOX Business uncovered evidence that ties the NBCFAE cheating scandal to employees in the FAA’s human resources office.  Jack’s lawyer, Michael Pearson, represents several FAA job applicants who were “purged” by the agency after the NBCFAE lobbied for hiring changes.  Pearson wrote on March 10, 2014 to the FAA’s Deputy Assistant Administrator for Civil Rights Courtney Wilkerson requesting that Hill recuse himself from Jack’s case because of Hill’s membership in the NBCFAE. Part of the letter says, “…the NBCFAE improperly and illegally interfered with the CTI hiring process. FOX Business Exclusive Audio If these allegations are true Mr. Hill has a direct and unwaivable (sic) conflict of interest between his professional responsibilities and his duties to the NBCFAE.”  FOX Business has made repeated requests for comment from the NBCFAE about the cheating scandal. Current NBCFAE president Paquita Bradley has declined comment to FOX Business. The FAA has also declined repeated requests for comment from FOX Business.

FAA Deputy Assistant Administrator for Civil Rights, Courtney Wilkerson, responded to Pearson’s letter on March 13, 2014 insisting Hill would remain on the case and not be removed. He wrote, “I can assure you that the FAA’s office of Civil Rights takes the matter of assigning EEO counselors to complaints very serious (sic) and would not intentionally assign an EEO counselor that may have a conflict of interest in processing a complaint.”

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Pearson wrote back on March 17th, 2014 citing the EEO law that says, “…agencies must avoid conflicts of position or conflicts of interest as well as the appearance of such conflicts…Therefore persons in these positions cannot serve as representatives for complaints or for agencies in connection with the processing of discrimination complaints.”  The FAA relented; removed Hill from Jack’s case and appointed a new EEO counselor who is not affiliated with the NBCFAE. But Pearson says the FAA is up to its old tricks, this time going after Lucas Johnson who was part of the FOX Business investigative report about the FAA first telecast on May 20th.

Johnson filed his EEO complaint, in April of this year, alleging the same mistreatment as Jack. The FAA assigned EEO counselor Yolanda Brownlee to Johnson’s case even though Brownlee is a member of the NBCFAE. Johnson spoke with Brownlee about his complaint and, on May 5th, she emailed him forms to complete in order to file his complaint. Johnson electronically signed and emailed the necessary forms to Brownlee on May 7th. But Brownlee says she never got them. Fox Business has a copy of the signed EEO complaint and email chain that verifies Johnson signed the form and emailed them to Brownlee.

On May 21st, after the FOX Business report exposing the FAA scandal, Johnson says he received a letter, via certified mail from Brownlee, saying his case would be automatically closed unless he sent the necessary forms; the forms Johnson says he had already sent on May 7th. “The HR and EEO department are supposed to look out for you and it appears they aren’t,” he said.  

Johnson says he called Brownlee and confronted her about her membership in the NBCFAE. Johnson says Brownlee replied asking, “What does that have to do with anything?”  Johnson pointed out the conflict of interest since Brownlee is a member of the NBCFAE and asked for a new EEO counselor. He says Brownlee responded, “I’ll look into it and forward it to my supervisor.”  Brownlee declined repeated requests from FOX Business to comment. Johnson’s request for a new EEO counselor is pending.

Johnson says other rejected FAA applicants, who have filed EEO complaints have similar stories. When asked if he thought the FAA and NBCFAE were conspiring against him Johnson said, “It’s hard to say. I’d like to think they aren’t I wouldn’t be shocked if they were.”  Jack was more direct, “it seems like it’s the HR branch of the FAA who is doing this,” he said. 

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