British Columbia

Former flight attendant's harassment claim against WestJet can go ahead, court says

The airline had asked the court to throw out a proposed class-action lawsuit alleging the company had failed to provide a harassment-free workplace for female employees.

Mandalena Lewis says the airline failed to create a safe working environment for its female employees

An ex-WestJet flight attendant is filing a proposed class action lawsuit, claiming other women have contacted her about the airline's alleged failure to create a safe working environment. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

The B.C. Supreme Court has rejected WestJet's application to toss out a potential class action by its female employees who are claiming the airline failed to provide a harassment free environment.

Former flight attendant Mandalena Lewis sued WestJet over allegations of gender-based discrimination, accusing her former employer of fostering a corporate culture that tolerates harassment against its female employees.

Lewis —  who says she was sexually assaulted by a WestJet pilot in 2010 — alleged the company breached its employment contract which said it would treat complaints of harassment seriously and ensure quick and fair resolutions.

But before her claims could be tested in court, WestJet applied to have the claim tossed out.

The Calgary-based airline said the legal claim would be better dealt with through a human rights tribunal or workers compensation board. It also argued the case was an abuse of process.

Today, the B.C. Supreme Court rejected WestJet's arguments.

"It is not plain and obvious, at this early stage, that that specific claim does not disclose a reasonable cause of action or is bound to fail," wrote Madame Justice Mary A. Humphries.

Lewis said she was very pleased with the court's decision.

"I'm really glad that this is going forward and this is proceeding. This is setting a precedent already," Lewis said. "This is going to set a precedent for women in the workplace across the Canadian work sector."

A spokesperson from WestJet sent the following statement to CBC News:

"WestJet acknowledges the outcome of the motion, but, as this matter is still before the courts, we will not be making further comment."

Lewis says she will apply for a class action certification in the coming months.