WestJet responds to proposed class-action lawsuit from former flight attendant

WestJet is rejecting allegations made by a former flight attendant that it fails to provide a harassment-free workplace for its female employees, saying it would not put its reputation at stake by inadequately dealing with complaints.

VANCOUVER — WestJet is rejecting allegations made by a former flight attendant that it fails to provide a harassment-free workplace for its female employees, saying it would not put its reputation at stake by inadequately dealing with complaints.

The Calgary-based airline’s response to a civil claim, filed this week in British Columbia Supreme Court, argues against granting class-action status to a lawsuit launched earlier this month by Mandalena Lewis.

“WestJet denies allowing harassment to exist in its workplace,” the court document says. “There are clear financial and reputational incentives for WestJet to provide a harassment-free workplace to all employees.”

This is the second lawsuit Lewis has filed against WestJet. Earlier this year she filed a civil claim alleging WestJet failed to take proper action after she reported being sexually assaulted by a pilot while on a stopover in Hawaii.

She has said she began the proposed class action when multiple women approached her with similar complaints after she filed her initial lawsuit.

Behaviours mentioned in the latest notice of claim include sexist jokes, obscene comments, unwelcome physical contact and “midnight knocking,” which Lewis defines as a request or demand for late-night sexual favours by pilots while on a stopover.

The claim accused the company of protecting “harassers,” often pilots, who are considered more economically valuable employees.

Lewis has said she is unsure how many people could be involved if the lawsuit receives class-action certification. Flight attendants make up about a quarter of the more than 11,000 workers WestJet employs.

None of the allegations have been proven in court.

In its response to the latest legal action, the airline argues against class-action approval because it says the circumstances for any given potential plaintiff aren’t universal enough to consider them as a group.

WestJet denies allegations that the way it investigates reports of harassment discourages victims from coming forward with complaints and attempts to silences them when they do.

“In fact, the opposite is true,” the airline says, rejecting the claim that its approach leads to the under-reporting of harassment.

“WestJet’s (confidential) investigation process encourages WestJetters to report inappropriate behaviour by allowing them to do so in confidence.”

The airline says privacy laws prevent it from disclosing the particulars of an investigation.

WestJet also took aim at Lewis’s eight-year work record, highlighting the circumstances that led to her firing in January.

“From the beginning of her employment, Lewis had consistently poor attendance,” it says, describing the eight instances she was formally disciplined.

The company says it ended Lewis’s contract after she sent a manager an email containing a profanity demanding her employment file, which the company was late in providing.

“Lewis’s grossly insubordinate and insolent email, combined with Lewis’s extensive disciplinary record, warranted the termination of Lewis’s employment for just cause.”

In its response to the original lawsuit, WestJet also says its decision to fire Lewis was the result of her attendance, inappropriate use of social media and aggressive communication style.

Lewis couldn’t be reached for comment Wednesday, but in a previous interview has dismissed the allegations as a red herring meant to distract from the core issue of flight-attendant safety.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Erika Fetterly, owner of EFP Studios, recently launched the Let Them Have A Voice campaign. (Contributed photo)
Central Alberta photographer’s campaign aims to give youths a voice

An Innisfail photographer is giving a platform to young central Albertans so… Continue reading

Chopped Canada-winning chef Pete Sok is trying to focus on the future as he reopens Boulevard Restaurant and Lounge in the Holiday Inn on Gasoline Alley during the pandemic. (Contributed photo)
Red Deer’s celebrity chef looks past the pandemic with new restaurant opportunity

Pete Sok is reopening Boulevard Restaurant — and betting on the future

The Red Deer Rebels hosted the Medicine Hat Tigers in the first game of the shortened 2020-21 season on Friday. The two teams faced off again in Medicine Hat Saturday (Photo by Rob Wallator/ Red Deer Rebels)
Red Deer Rebels fall to Medicine Hat Tigers on Saturday

Tigers 7 Rebels 2 The Red Deer Rebels have lost two straight… Continue reading

Alberta has 1,910 active cases of COVID-19 as of Wednesday. Red Deer is reporting five active cases, with 108 recovered. (File photo)
Red Deer reports 25th COVID-19 death

415 new cases identified provincially Saturday

Red Deer science-communicating dogs Bunsen and Beaker helped save a missing pet recently. The two dogs have more than 80,000 followers on Twitter. (Contributed photo)
WATCH: Red Deer science dogs help save lost pet

Red Deer science-communicating dogs Bunsen and Beaker helped rescue a missing pet… Continue reading

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney speaks during a news conference in Edmonton on Feb. 24, 2020. It’s budget day in the province, and Kenney’s United Conservative government is promising more help in the fight against COVID, but more red ink on the bottom line. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta Premier slams vandalism after slur painted on MLA’s office window

EDMONTON — Alberta Premier Jason Kenney is condemning alleged vandalism at the… Continue reading

Canada Pension Plan Investment Board President and Chief Executive Officer Mark Machin waits to appear at the Standing Committee on Finance on Parliament Hill, in Ottawa on Tuesday, November 1, 2016. Executives who engage in so-called "vaccine tourism" show both an ethical disregard for those less fortunate and a surprising lack of business acumen, experts argue. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Vaccine tourism is both unethical and bad for business, experts say

Executives who engage in so-called “vaccine tourism” show both an ethical disregard… Continue reading

Edmonton Oilers' Jesse Puljujarvi (13) and Toronto Maple Leafs' Justin Holl (3) battle in front as goalie Jack Campbell (36) makes the save during second period NHL action in Edmonton on Saturday, February 27, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
No Matthews, no problem: Minus NHL goal leader, Maple Leafs blank Oilers 4-0

Leafs 4 Oilers 0 EDMONTON — The Maple Leafs knew even with… Continue reading

Leader of the Government in the House of Commons Pablo Rodriguez rises during Question Period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Friday, Nov. 20, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
Gummed-up bills in House of Commons: harbinger of a federal election?

OTTAWA — All federal party leaders maintain they don’t want an election… Continue reading

The Pornhub website is shown on a computer screen in Toronto on Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS
Pornhub policies reveal legal gaps and lack of enforcement around exploitive videos

OTTAWA — Serena Fleites was in seventh grade when a sexually explicit… Continue reading

Sean Hoskin stands on a neighbourhood street in Halifax on Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021. Hoskin was diagnosed with COVID-19 almost a year ago with symptoms that still persist. Some provinces have established programs to deal with long-term sufferers but Atlantic Canada, with relatively low numbers of patients, has yet to provide a resource to assist them. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan
On East Coast, exhausted COVID-19 ‘long haulers’ hope specialized clinics will emerge

HALIFAX — On evenings when Sean Hoskin collapses into bed, heart pounding… Continue reading

Ottawa Senators goaltender Matt Murray (30) stands in his crease as Calgary Flames left wing Andrew Mangiapane (88), left to right, defenceman Rasmus Andersson (4), Matthew Tkachuk (19), Mikael Backlund (11) and Mark Giordano (5) celebrate a goal during second period NHL action in Ottawa on Saturday, Feb. 27, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Calgary Flames beat Ottawa 6-3 to end Senators’ three-game win streak

Flames 6 Senators 3 OTTAWA — The Calgary Flames used a balanced… Continue reading

Crosses are displayed in memory of the elderly who died from COVID-19 at the Camilla Care Community facility during the COVID-19 pandemic in Mississauga, Ont., on November 19, 2020. The number of people who would have died from a COVID-19 infection is likely to be much higher than recorded because of death certificates don't always list the virus as the cause of a fatality, experts say. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Death certificates don’t accurately reflect the toll of the pandemic, experts say

The number of people who would have died from a COVID-19 infection… Continue reading

Most Read