Flight attendant sues WestJet after alleged sex assault by pilot during layover

A former flight attendant is taking WestJet to court, accusing the airline of failing to take proper action after she alleged she was sexually assaulted by a pilot and then fired for asking how the company responded to her complaint.

VANCOUVER — A former flight attendant is taking WestJet to court, accusing the airline of failing to take proper action after she alleged she was sexually assaulted by a pilot and then fired for asking how the company responded to her complaint.

Documents filed this week in B.C. Supreme Court describe how Mandalena Lewis was on a stopover in Hawaii in January 2010 when an unnamed WestJet pilot allegedly pulled her onto a hotel bed and proceeded to kiss and grope her.

“(Lewis) was terrified,” reads a statement of claim filed in the case. “She resisted physically, yelling that he stop. … In her panic, (she) managed to leverage her legs into a position where she was physically able to kick out and push (the pilot) off her.”

After returning to her room, the document says: “She vomited, cried, attempted to calm herself without success and barely slept.”

The court document says after the alleged incident was reported, the Calgary-based company changed Lewis’s work schedule to avoid overlap with the pilot, which left her with fewer working hours. It also alleges that she was instructed to keep quiet out of respect for the pilot’s privacy.

Lewis’s lawyer, Sean Hern, said his client has consented to her name being made public.

None of the allegations have been proven in court and WestJet has not filed a statement of defence.

In an email, the company says it doesn’t comment on ongoing legal proceedings but adds that it intends to defend itself against the lawsuit.

The company says it takes seriously its commitment to ensuring a safe and harassment-free environment for both its employees and passengers.

Last year Lewis says she met another flight attendant for the first time who had filed a similar complaint with the airline in 2008 about the same pilot. The statement of claim alleges that she also had been encouraged to stay quiet.

It says Lewis was “demoralized, frustrated and degraded,” and became concerned that she and other flight attendants had been at risk because the airline didn’t adequately investigate the pilot’s alleged behaviour in 2008.

“In other words, had WestJet lived up to its commitments to provide a safe working environment for its employees, (Lewis) would not have been sexually assaulted,” reads the statement of claim.

Lewis was fired earlier this year for “insubordination,” but the court document alleges the reason for her dismissal was Lewis’s repeated requests to view her employee file in order to learn what the company had done about her complaint.

“WestJet’s conduct has been negligent, retaliatory, unlawful and unacceptable,” reads the statement of claim.

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

Just Posted

Chief Medical Officer Dr. Deena Hinshaw, accompanied by Premier Jason Kenney, in March when the pandemic had just started in Alberta. On Wednesday, Kenney said COVID-19 vaccine will be distributed in three phases in the province. Photo by Government of Alberta
COVID-19 vaccine available to Albertans in January – distributed in 3 phases

Vaccine won’t be widely available until the fall of 2021

The G.H. Dawe Community Centre in Red Deer is getting a twinned ice rink, spray park and other upgrades as part of the 2021 capital budget. (Advocate file photo).
Red Deer city council approves $43.3 million upgrade to G.H. Dawe Centre

In a 7-2 vote, the majority on council felt it’s about time

Olds College received 10 Angus heifer calves, donated by The Canadian Red Angus Promotion Society. (File photo)
Olds College and TELUS to develop new agriculture technologies

TELUS Agriculture is investing $1 million in the Olds College Smart Farm.… Continue reading

Const. Jason Tress leaves Red Deer provincial court. An RCMP officer, whose name is under a publication ban, testified Tress sexually assaulted her at a party in 2012. Photo by PAUL COWLEY/Advocate staff
Former Red Deer RCMP officer denies sexually assaulting colleague

Former Const. Jason Tress took the stand in his own defence on Wednesday

A new public washroom, proposed for downtown Red Deer, was tabled in the city’s 2021 budget discussions so more questions can be answered about the proposal. (Advocate file photo).
Proposed downtown public washroom is stalled in 2021 budget discussions

More questions need to be answered about the $511,500 project

Dan Cochrane, senior pastor at CrossRoads Church. Contributed photo
CrossRoads Church closes its doors for two weeks after staff member tests positive for COVID-19

CrossRoads Church made the decision to cancel in-house services for two weeks… Continue reading

A Canadian Pacific Railway employee walks along the side of a locomotive in a marshalling yard in Calgary on May 16, 2012. CP says an investigation is underway following the release of a video showing one of the company's trains running over dozens of pronghorn antelope in southwestern Saskatchewan.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
CP investigating after video shows train running over pronghorn antelope herd

CP investigating after video shows train running over pronghorn antelope herd

Bullet holes from 2014 attack on Parliament Hill to be left untouched in renovations

Bullet holes from 2014 attack on Parliament Hill to be left untouched in renovations

Marc Miller, Minister of Indigenous Services, holds a news conference in Ottawa on Wednesday, Dec. 2, 2020., to announce additional funds to improve access to safe drinking water on reserves. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Boil-water advisories at First Nations communities to remain past March 2021: feds

Boil-water advisories at First Nations communities to remain past March 2021: feds

Wilner Cayo, centre, and Frantz Andre attend a demonstration outside Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's constituency office in Montreal on May 23, 2020, where they called on the government to give residency status to migrant workers as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
Refugee advocates criticize Canada’s decision to resume deportations during COVID-19

Refugee advocates criticize Canada’s decision to resume deportations during COVID-19

Commissioner and former Supreme Court justice Michel Bastarache speaks at the Inquiry Commission into the appointment of judges on October 13, 2010 in Quebec City. The author of a report that found a toxic, misogynistic culture in the RCMP says the police force must take some "drastic actions" right away to restore confidence. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jacques Boissinot
RCMP must take ‘drastic actions’ to restore confidence: former Supreme Court justice

RCMP must take ‘drastic actions’ to restore confidence: former Supreme Court justice

Police officers guard the scene of an incident in Trier, Germany, Tuesday, Dec. 1, 2020. German police say people have been killed and several others injured in the southwestern German city of Trier when a car drove into a pedestrian zone. Trier police tweeted that the driver had been arrested and the vehicle impounded.(AP Photo/Michael Probst)
German city grieves after 5 killed in pedestrian zone attack

German city grieves after 5 killed in pedestrian zone attack

In this undated photo released by Pfizer on Tuesday, Dec. 1, 2020, a thermal shipping box for a COVID-19 candidate vaccine developed by BioNTech and Pfizer is shown in front of a freezers at the company headquarters in Puurs, Belgium. The potential vaccine is awaiting approval to use against the coronavirus. (Pfizer via AP)
Britain OKs Pfizer vaccine and will begin shots within days

Britain OKs Pfizer vaccine and will begin shots within days

FILE - In this Sept. 27, 2020 file photo, French President Emmanuel Macron speaks during a press conference on the situation in Lebanon. France and the U.N. will host a new conference next week about aid to Beirut after its devastating port explosion in August, amid political deadlock and a worsening economic crisis in Lebanon, the French presidency said Friday, Nov. 27. (AP Photo/Lewis Joly, Pool)
France and UN rally aid for Lebanon, urge political reforms

France and UN rally aid for Lebanon, urge political reforms

Most Read