Ex-flight attendant says WestJet failed to probe pilot sex assault
Published Wednesday, March 2, 2016 3:30PM PST
Last Updated Wednesday, March 2, 2016 7:54PM PST
A former WestJet flight attendant who claims she was sexually assaulted by a pilot has launched a lawsuit alleging the airline failed to properly investigate what happened.
Vancouver resident Mandalena Lewis, who agreed to have her name publicized in the interest of sharing her story, said the assault took place while she was on a layover at a Hawaiian hotel in January 2010.
According to her civil claim, which was filed in B.C. Supreme Court this week, she met a WestJet pilot identified only as “Pilot M” in his room, where he dragged her onto a bed and proceeded to kiss and grope her against her will.
"She resisted physically, yelling that he stop," her claim reads. "Pilot M did not stop but rather continued to grope and attempt to kiss her.”
Lewis said she was eventually able to fight him off and leave.
Her claim alleges she reported the incident to WestJet shortly after, but the airline “failed to adequately investigate” her allegations.
“All that WestJet did was structure [her] work schedule so that she did not have to work with the pilot,” it reads.
“She was told to keep quiet about the incident notwithstanding that other female flight attendants were working under the pilot.”
Lewis said she was even more distressed after talking to another flight attendant, who claimed to have been sexually assaulted by the same pilot two years earlier.
Her lawsuit alleges that “WestJet knew at least by 2008 that the pilot was a danger to other employees and WestJet had failed to remove him from the workplace.”
She said she demanded WestJet explain what investigation, if any, had been undertaken, but was left waiting for a response. Lewis later went on short-term disability leave for growing anxiety, according to her suit, and was eventually fired after emailing the company to express her frustration at the lack of answers.
Her suit alleges the airline’s conduct was negligent and breached her employment contract, and that her firing was a “retaliation.”
WestJet has yet to file a statement of defence in the case, but told CTV News on Wednesday that it takes the safety of its employees seriously.
“WestJet does not comment on ongoing legal proceedings but confirms it will file a statement of defense in which it will vigorously defend the allegations contained in the claim,” a spokesperson said in an email.
“WestJet further confirms its commitment to maintaining a safe and harassment free environment for its employees and guests and takes its obligations in this respect with the utmost seriousness.”
None of the claims against the airline have been proven in court.
Lewis's allegations were investigated by police in Hawaii; a Maui prosecutor confirmed to CTV News that a WestJet pilot was charged in the state in 2010.