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WestJet faces potential class-action lawsuit over alleged workplace harassment

Mandy Lewis, a former WestJet flight attendant who alleges she was sexually assaulted by a pilot, has filed a potential class-action lawsuit on behalf of female flight attendants.

'It’s gone way too far and they’re not listening to the complaints,' says ex-flight attendant suing company

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. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)

A former WestJet flight attendant who alleges she was sexually assaulted by a pilot in 2010 has filed a second lawsuit against the company, this one a proposed class action claiming WestJet has failed to create a safe work environment for female flight attendants.

Mandalena (Mandy) Lewis originally launched a lawsuit against WestJet earlier this year 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.

Now, she says other women have contacted her with stories about lewd jokes, harassment and even assault on the job.

"There's a slew, a huge onslaught of people who have come forward," said Lewis, who is seeking to be the representative plaintiff if the class action is certified.

The lawsuit claims that WestJet breached its commitment to a "safe and harassment-free environment," and left female flight attendants vulnerable to "humiliating taunting," obscene gestures, unwelcome physical contact and "requests or demands for sexual favours."

"WestJet has knowledge that harassment is occurring in its workplace … [and] fails to appropriately investigate and impose meaningful consequences," the claim states.

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Lewis declined to say how many female flight attendants have contacted her. WestJet has also previously said "a number of employees" have come forward following her allegations.

The company said in a statement it has not been served with a claim and would not comment until it has seen the filing.

'Midnight knocking'

In an interview, Lewis said the complaints she's heard tend to be about incidents during layovers, when the crew stays in a hotel booked by WestJet, and involve pilots and flight attendants.

Mandalena Lewis, a former WestJet employee, has filed a second lawsuit against the company. (Ioanna Roumeliotis/CBC)

The lawsuit alleges a deep divide in treatment of those two groups: flight attendants who are mostly young and female, and pilots who are "largely older and male" — and at the top of the chain of command on the plane.

The airline industry has been historically permissive of harassment of flight attendants, the lawsuit alleges.

"This has included attitudes by some male pilots that female flight attendants are or ought to be sexually available to them."

The lawsuit claims flight attendants have been subject to "midnight knocking" by pilots on layover — requesting or demanding sexual favours.

'It's gone too far,' Lewis says

On layovers, pilots and flight attendants are expected to hang out socially, stay in the same hotel and even go drinking together, said Lewis.

"Going on a layover somewhere, the first thing you'll hear from the crew in the van is are we going for drinks, should we pick up booze on the way to the hotel."

Those who decide to opt out, as Lewis said she had done since 2010, are derided as a "slam-clicker" — someone who slams their hotel door shut and clicks the lock on the door.

Lewis alleges the company "should have known better" in fostering such a workplace culture.

"It's just gone too far, it's gone way too far and they're not listening to the complaints we have about how far this has really gone."

None of the allegations made in the court documents have been proven in court.

With files from Ioanna Roumeliotis and The Canadian Press