A Canadian newspaper has posted more details about a sexual harassment claim against Air Canada, which alleges new onboard service managers (OBSMs) have created a “toxic environment” for flight attendants. The allegations were originally made public on International Womens Day, although details of specific incidents weren’t released.
The Canadian Union of Public Employees says there is a culture of “fear and intimidation” in the workplace at Air Canada with flight attendants subjected to “sexist, racist and homophobic remarks”. The union claims service managers have “engaged in inappropriate behaviour” towards flight attendants of both sexes.
Now the Toronto Star newspaper says it has managed to get its hands on a leaked copy of the 13-page complaint which the union has filed with the Canadian Human Rights Commission. The union represents approximately 6,000 flight attendants at both Air Canada and its leisure subsidiary, Air Canada Rouge.
Having trawled through the complaint, the newspaper claims allegations include:
- Flight attendants were lined up in a hallway during their initial training and marked on their appearance.
- One flight attendant was told her eyes were “too small” while another was told her skin colour was “too white”.
- In one incident, a service manager allegedly told a flight attendant: “We are going to bed together because I am assessing you.”
- In another case involving a service manager, a pregnant flight attendant was warned her pregnancy could cause “negative alterations of her mood.”
- And another service manager created “origami breasts with the linen and pretended to flash people” while covering his groin with an oxygen mask – twice!
Other parts of the formal complaint say flight attendants “are subjected to a demeaning public critique of their appearance” and the onboard service managers have engaged in “highly sexualized harassing comments and conduct.”
The union says it has been forced to file a complaint as Air Canada has repeatedly failed to deal with the allegations of harassment. But in a statement, Air Canada denies the discrimination alleged exists, saying the airline takes a “zero tolerance” approach to such allegations.
“We take such matters very seriously and have established processes in place to deal with any such complaints and to act upon them,” a spokesperson for the airline explained.
The Canadian Human Rights Commission declined to say whether a complaint had even been filed, citing privacy concerns, while Air Canada said the union failed to first address its concerns with management.
The spokesperson for Air Canada has claimed “there is no systemic issue” and instead implied the complaint had been made because the airline has introduced the onboard service managers.
The service managers had been introduced to “to further improve customer service” and the airline had “already seen significant customer satisfaction gains as a result.”
No date has yet been set for the complaint to be heard by the commission.