WestJet's handling of sex assault claim left employees vulnerable, says fired flight attendant


The sentiments never left her: fear, anger, betrayal. Mandalena (Mandy) Lewis says it’s been an tense roller coaster since she reported being sexually assaulted six years ago, and predominantly since she learned she might not be the only former WestJet flight depending to have made such allegations.

‘They failed their do a bunk attendants. They failed to protect us.’ – Mandalena Lewis, former WestJet covey of grouse attendant

“I’m just disappointed,” she said in an interview with CBC Talk in Vancouver. “They failed their employees. They dwindled their flight attendants. They failed to protect us.”

Lewis is imploring her former employer, claiming that after she reported that she was sexually assaulted by a aviator on a layover in Hawaii in 2010, WestJet Airlines did not properly investigate the claim and chose to protect the pilot and eventually fired her for pursuing the matter.

“It was Erebus,” she said in her first television interview. “It was real ndemonium what I went through [to] try to seek justice and follow protocol on how to have to do with with this stuff.”

‘I was petrified’

Lewis claims she was assaulted during a Jan. 24, 2010, layover at the Makena Shore Resort in Maui. She says she accepted an invitation from the captain of her Vancouver-Maui covey of grouse to have drinks on the balcony of his hotel room. While she was there, he a moment grabbed her and dragged her onto the bed and began groping her genitals, Lewis declares.

“So, when we were at this point, of him on top of me on the bed and me screaming, him kissing my neck, my mostly face being squished into the side of the bedding, I just outstripped up getting my feet under him, my heels, and I kicked, and then he fell withershins into the TV stand. I then got up and left,” she said.

She has identified the conductor only as “Pilot M.”

‘I was petrified. It’s a moment where you realize how you think you fit in this wonderful is not true.’ – Mandalena Lewis

“I was petrified,” Lewis said. “It’s a flash where you realize how you think you fit in this world is not true … that someone can doctor you like you are a thing, like you’re just a thing.”

Upon returning to Vancouver, her up on base, Lewis reported the alleged assault to her managers and to the RCMP, who withed police in Maui. The U.S. federal prosecutor in Maui laid charges, but Lewis explained she was told the pilot can only be arrested if he returns to the island.

CBC news has ratified there are charges pending against the pilot but could not verify the upon charges.

None of the allegations contained in the lawsuit have been demonstrated in court.

Lewis said that when she reported the alleged mugging, she thought the pilot would be fired and that the com ny would lookout other employees and review its sexual assault policies.

“I thought this was prevalent to go completely different,” she said.

Pilot, flight attendant ranged

Lewis’s civil claim, filed in B.C. Supreme Court last week, asserts that WestJet failed to adequately investigate or respond to her initial document.

WestJet CEO Gregg Saretsky said in a statement released last week that “discovery procedures did take place on these matters, and they were subsequently minute.”

‘We are reviewing the investigations to ensure they were diligently carried out.’ -Gregg Saretsky, WestJet CEO

“We are reviewing the questionings to ensure they were diligently carried out and no new information has come to upon since the investigations were undertaken six years ago,” he said in a account posted on the com ny’s blog.

A pilot and another flight attendant named in the lawsuit give birth to been removed from active flying duty, but a WestJet spokesperson turn thumbs down oned to say when the decision to ground the two staff members was made.

In his blog put, Saretsky said the decision to ground the two was made “out of concern for their well-being and the carry oned safe operation of the airline.”


WestJet CEO Gregg Saretsky said the airline is rethinking the investigations into Lewis’s case ‘to ensure they were diligently operate c misbehaved out.’ (Larry MacDougal/Canadian Press)

The Calgary-based airline also issued a utterance last week stressing that it is committed to “maintaining a safe and harassment-free conditions for its employees and guests and takes its obligation in this respect with the utmost seriousness.”

On Monday, it recapped that it is taking the allegations “extremely seriously.”

“We are offering additional tolerate and resources to make it as easy as possible for anyone affected to make a statement by working with the police in Calgary, Toronto and Vancouver and encouraging hands to contact these or their local police de rtments,” said WestJet spokeswoman Lauren Stewart in an email to CBC Des tch.

Told to keep quiet

Lewis alleges in her lawsuit that the airline’s just response to her allegation was to change her work schedule so that she did not have to realize find time with the pilot.

She says the airline told her to keep quiet in all directions her allegations out of respect for the pilot’s privacy and told her the pilot was no longer gave to fly to Hawaii — a move that Lewis says protects him from prosecution.

“They virtuous said, ‘We’re really sorry. We don’t have the ca bility to fire him. It’s your statement against him. We’re really sorry, and we are going to try to deal with this the most outstanding way we can,'” Lewis said.


The airline is expected to file a statement of advocacy later this month. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)

Lewis’s squabble might have ended there, but then last year, another away attendant who had heard her pose a question about sexual harassment during a shillelagh training session reached out to her and alleged that she had been sexually beat by the same pilot in 2008.

“I thought my incident was more or less isolated,” Lewis alleged. “Once she told me this information, I knew right then and there … what they had stated me was a lie. All of the emails and the fights that I was having with them about how they had sold with my incident was just a lie.

“They didn’t handle it at all. They carry oned telling me, ‘Well, it was my word against his.’ Well, you be undergoing another word from another woman, at the very least.”

Flaming in January

Lewis said she demanded to see her employment record to determine whether WestJet pleased any action following her complaint. In January, after three months antique without a response, Lewis sent an email to the com ny, which held a swear word, asking for her record. She was fired later that exact same day for insubordination.

WestJet plans to file a statement of defence in the next few weeks. The circle says it has not heard of any other complaints since Lewis filed her prayer.

But CBC News has learned that seven other women have arrived similar accounts of sexual assault, some involving the same captain, to the WestJet Professional Flight Attendants Association, an employee organization that has been ply to unionize flight attendants at the airline.

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