Two veteran flight attendants, each with over 40-years service, have filed a lawsuit in the Superior Court of the State of California against American Airlines alleging their employer failed to protect them after a pilot who they believe was drinking on duty allegedly sexually harassed and assaulted them during a domestic flight. Janette Beckman and Leanne Hansen were put on unpaid leaves of absence during an internal investigation which subsequently cleared the now-retired First Officer of any wrongdoing
“This case is a shocking example of a patriarchal playground where almost exclusively male assets known as pilots are allowed to roam free to assault flight attendants as they please, while American sits idly by,” the lawsuit reads.
“In this case, American allowed a known sexual predator to drunkenly harass and physically assault lifelong flight attendants who had devoted their entire professional lives to providing excellent service for American’s customers,” the complaint, which was filed last week, continues.
“They find themselves disgraced among their peers and isolated from the company to which they have devoted the past four-plus decades, just because they had the courage to stand up to a pilot who sexually assaulted and harassed them in the workplace,” the explosive lawsuit alleges.
The incident happened during a flight from Los Angeles where the two flight attendants were based when the First Officer walked into a galley at the back of the plane allegedly in search of alcohol. Janette says she refused the pilot’s request because of concern for the safety of hundreds of passengers and fellow crew members.
Claiming that the pilot was unhappy with the refusal to allow “on-duty drinking” he is alleged to have then started to sexually harass the flight attendant, telling her that he knew she liked S&M (sadomasochism). “I know you like to be tied up,” he continued.
But when Leanne stepped in, the pilot allegedly turned on her. “Oh, you’re into ropes?” he said after seeing bag tags attached to her crew luggage. “Do you wanna come to my room and tie me up?”
The pilot is then accused of grabbing one of the flight attendants by her hips, digging his nails into her hip bones and “repeatedly and violently” thrusting his penis into her buttocks.
When the flight attendants told the Captain of what had just happened, however, he was “far from surprised” and recounted that the First Officer had boasted of “sexual conquests with underage prostitutes”.
Rather than immediately taking action the Captain asked the flight attendants what they thought should happen before allowing the First Officer to work the return flight home. Shortly afterwards, one of the flight attendants was forced to go on stress leave while the second continued to work before being forced to work with the same First Officer just one week later. She too then went on stress leave fearing that American would not protect her.
The two flight attendants filed a formal complaint with American against the First Officer who then placed them both on unpaid leave until the end of an internal investigation. The First Officer was placed on a paid leave of absence.
Both flight attendants remained on unpaid leave for almost six months before American told them that the investigation had been completed and that “appreciate action had been taken”. During this time, the lawsuit claims American knowingly allowed rumors to be spread about the flight attendants.
American is accused of sexual battery, assault, harassment, gender discrimination, whistleblower retaliation, intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress, as well as offences under the California Fair Employment and Housing Act. Both Hansen and Beckman are seeking monetary damages from American.
While American Airlines has a policy of not commenting on active litigation cases, a spokesperson for the carrier told us American does not tolerate harassment of any kind.
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Mateusz Maszczynski is a serving international flight attendant with experience at a major Middle East and European airline. Mateusz is passionate about the aviation industry and helping aspiring flight attendants achieve their dreams. Cabin crew recruitment can be tough, ultra-competitive and just a little bit confusing – Mateusz has been there and done that. He’s got the low down on what really works.