A Southwest Airlines pilot is suing the airline, as well as her union and a now-retired Captain who admitted to exposing his genitals in front of her during a flight from Philadelphia to Orlando.
First Officer Christine Janning filed the lawsuit in the Circuit Civil Court in Orange County, Florida in late September alleging that Southwest Airlines retaliated against her when she made a complaint about convicted ex-pilot Michael Haak.
In the 29-page complaint, Janning’s lawyers also accuse Southwest Airlines of negligent supervision of Haak, and for creating a hostile work environment against her. The Southwest pilots union (SWAPA) is accused of conspiracy to retaliate, while Haak is being sued for sexual assault.
Last year, Haak was slapped with a $5,000 fine and sentenced to 12 months of probation after he admitted to performing a “lewd, indecent, or obscene” act during his last flight in command before he retired in August 2020.
The civil complaint alleges that Haak bolt-locked the cockpit door in violation of federal law, stripped off his clothing and masturbated in front of Janning while watching pornography on his laptop.
It’s claimed that the incident lasted for more than 30 minutes until Haak eventually climaxed. Janning says she took photographs for evidence.
Haak has maintained throughout that what happened in the cockpit was consensual and started off as a joke.
Several months passed before Janning made a formal complaint of sexual harassment to the airline, but she says Southwest refused to initiate an internal investigation because Haak has already retired.
Janning then decided to approach the FBI and provided testimony about the incident a month or so later. Around the same time, Southwest suddenly decided to ground Janning, resulting in wage losses of more than $30,000.
The lawsuit alleges that Southwest sent an internal memo urging employees not to cooperate with the FBI over the investigation and only recanted the order after investigators became aware of the memo and informed the airline that it was potentially obstructing a federal criminal investigation.
Meanwhile, the Southwest Airlines Pilots Association (SWAPA) is accused of “concealing” complaints of sexual misconduct made against Haak. In one incident in 2008, Haak allegedly sexually assaulted a flight attendant in her hotel room, and in another, he reportedly exposed his genitals to flight attendants after a flight.
Haak’s attorney denies that there were any previous incidents.
Southwest Airlines says it plans to “vigorously defend” itself against the complaints made in Janning’s lawsuit.
“Our corporate Culture is built upon treating others with mutual respect and dignity, and the events alleged in this situation are inconsistent with the behavior that we require of our Employees,” the airline said in a statement.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.