British Columbia

WestJet fails to quash proposed class action lawsuit from former flight attendant

WestJet has failed in another bid to quash a proposed class-action lawsuit accusing it of fostering a culture that tolerates harassment of female employees.

Mandalena Lewis claims she was sexually assaulted by a pilot in 2010 and the company protected him, not her

Former WestJet flight attendant Mandalena Lewis is part of a proposed class action lawsuit claiming WestJet failed to create a safe work environment for female flight attendants (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)

WestJet has failed in another bid to quash a proposed class-action lawsuit accusing it of fostering a culture that tolerates harassment of female employees.

It stems from a lawsuit filed by ex-flight attendant Mandalena Lewis in 2016. She claims she was sexually assaulted by a pilot in 2010 — but instead of firing the pilot, she alleges WestJet protected him and fired her.

Lewis originally launched a lawsuit over allegations the airline didn't take proper action, after she reported being sexually assaulted by a pilot while on a stopover in Hawaii.

She was fired in January, 2016.

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

Mandalena Lewis is a woman who has filed a lawsuit against her former employer west jet alleging a pilot had sexually assaulted her 2:02

In April 2016, she brought a second suit, a proposed class action, claiming WestJet failed to create a safe work environment for female flight attendants.

On Thursday, the B.C. Court of Appeal rejected the airline's appeal of a 2017 lower court ruling that turned aside an attempt to get Lewis's second lawsuit dismissed.

A B.C. Supreme Court judge dismissed WestJet's argument that the dispute belongs before a human rights tribunal and workers' compensation board — and the higher court agrees that nothing removes the jurisdiction of the courts in the case.

Mandalena Lewis, left, posed in this photo taken at B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver and posted to her Facebook page on Jan. 22, 2019. (Mandalena Lewis/Facebook)

Lewis says she is relieved by the new decision.

"We are beginning a reckoning for women across the Canadian work sector," she said about the appeal court's decision. "I feel like a revolution is coming."

Lewis says the next step is to have her class action lawsuit certified and she's hopeful that could happen within the next year.

She says the #MeToo movement, which began two years after she came forward with her sexual abuse allegations, should help draw women to her case.

"What I believe is going to happen, is that all of these stories that have been buried, and all of these nondisclosures will be broken, and women will come forward," she said.

In a statement, WestJet says it respects, "the decision of the Court and are in the process of reviewing the decision with our counsel to determine next steps."

With files from Canadian Press