Warning: trigger alert — this may be very difficult to read as the content refers to sexual assault.
A North American airline pilot sexually assaulted former flight attendant Mandalena Lewis while she was at work. When she spoke out, management didn’t protect her -- they fired her. Now, she is going public with the horrific allegations.
But Mandalena wasn't the only one. Up to dozens of women have been assaulted, harassed and raped, mostly by pilots -- and their employer, a major Canadian airline that is about to expand into the UK and is eyeing the rest of Europe, Asia and Latin America, has done nothing to help or protect them.
WestJet's partners in Europe include KLM, Air France and British Airways. They have all been in the headlines and labour courts for sexual harassment over the years. This is not a subject that they can afford to ignore, if we petition them and tell journalists that the campaign is going global.
Sign the petition to Air France, KLM and British Airways to pressure their Canadian partner WestJet to ensure charges of rape and sexual assault are investigated and the CEO is replaced.
This is nothing less than gross corporate negligence -- and failing to protect its workers from sexual assault is becoming a hallmark of the airline industry. A 2014 report showed that 27% of flight attendants said they had been sexually harassed in the previous year. Airlines are literally in the business of safety. It transports millions of people safely across the country and planet each year -- yet it failed to protect some of its most precious cargo.
It was not easy for Mandalena to make the decision to come forward. Just looking at the recent media stories about other women who have made public allegations against well-known celebrities is proof. The system is not designed to protect victims, because those who come forward are often subject to threats, harassment and victim-blaming.
But together, we have the ability to make sure that is not Mandalena's fate. WestJet is a public company, and is one of the most well-known corporations in Canada. Already, the WestJet CEO has issued a public statement to address the public pressure generated by our petition. And seven more women have already come forward to say they were assaulted by the same pilot who assaulted Mandalena.
WestJet is consistently ranked as a top employer nationally, and earned $4 billion in revenue last year alone. It's also highly vulnerable to public pressure as the company is celebrating its 20th anniversary.
We are calling on the CEO to step down because not only because he is ultimately the person accountable for the egregious mishandling of the situation, but because we need to send a message to all airlines that this is unacceptable. We need to set a precedent that harassment and abuse are never acceptable, and that there are real consequences for a company that fails to protect its employees.
It took incredible courage for Mandalena to speak out. Let's stand with her and ensure that the silence ends now.
SumOfUs exists to make sure corporations are accountable to people. A mass of public opposition -- and solidarity for Mandalena -- will ensure that WestJet is held to account, and that it never ignores another employee again.
Call on Air France, KLM and British Airways to pressure their Canadian partner WestJet to ensure charges of rape and sexual assault are investigated and the CEO is replaced.
News about the lawsuit
A lawsuit was filed in the B.C. Supreme Court on March 1, 2016. The plaintiff in the suit, Mandalena Lewis, was a flight attendant at WestJet from 2008 to 2016. According to her complaint, she was assaulted in January 2010 by a WestJet pilot. She immediately reported to her First Officer, manager, and local police authorities where the alleged assault took place.
WestJet, according to her claim, failed to investigate or respond to her report following the assault. WestJet allegedly took away the pilot's ability to fly to the location where the assault took place, ostensibly taking away the ability of local authorities to prosecute the assault.
WestJet endeavoured to structure her work schedule so the pilot and plaintiff were not required to work together. She was told to keep quiet about the incident.
In August 2015, she met another WestJet flight attendant that claimed they were assaulted by the same pilot in 2008. WestJet allegedly also urged this woman to remain silent about the incident, and took no disciplinary measures against the pilot.
The significance of this, according to the suit, is that WestJet knew two years before Mandy's alleged assault about another assault -- and the company failed to remove the pilot from the workplace or place conditions on his employment that would protect employees like the plaintiff.
The suit argues that when Mandalena was later terminated, it was in retaliation to her attempts to understand the circumstances that resulted in her assault and to hold WestJet to its own commitments to keep employees safe.
According to WestJet's “Business Code of Conduct" stated to be terms of employment for its employees:
WestJet is committed to providing a safe and respectful work environment for all employees;
harassment includes sexual assault, unnecessary or unwelcome physical contact and any other action that may reasonably be perceived as offensive or disrespectful;
no-one has the right to harass anyone else at work or in any situation related to employment;
WestJet will respond promptly to all complaints to ensure they are resolved quickly and fairly;
WestJet will impose sanctions (including termination) on any employee who violates these requirements;
anyone who retaliates against a person who has made a complaint will be subject to sanctions.
Mandalena's suit alleges wrongful dismissal and breach of employment contract in that the company failed to provide a safe work environment.