A former WestJet flight attendant has filed a lawsuit claiming the Canadian airline failed to take actions that would have prevented a pilot from sexually assaulting her.
According to a statement of claim filed yesterday (March 2) in B.C. Supreme Court, Mandalena Lewis was physically assaulted by a man identified as Pilot M during a layover in Hawaii in January 2010.
None of the allegations have been proven in court. WestJet has yet to file a statement of defence.
A Globe and Mail article about the accusations states that WestJet responded to a media request with an email that claims the company “does not comment on ongoing legal proceedings but will ‘vigorously’ defend itself”.
“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,” the Globe quotes the company as writing in the email.
According to the notice of claim, WestJet had previously been made aware of a prior assault involving a different woman and the same pilot that occurred in 2008. It suggests that by failing to appropriately investigate and address that incident, the company failed to protect Lewis from the attack she allegedly suffered two years later.
Following news of the lawsuit, a consumer watchdog group called SumOf-Us.org launched an online petition that calls for WestJet CEO Gregg Saretsky to “immediately step down and ensure charges of rape and sexual assault are investigated”.
In less than 12 hours, that petition has already attracted more than 11,000 signatures.