A Qantas pilot has filed a lawsuit in Australia’s federal court accusing the airline of sexual harassment and discrimination after male colleagues allegedly told her that she would progress further in her career if she dyed her hair and wore a push-up bra.
Veteran First Officer Davida Forshaw has worked for the Australian flag carrier for 23 years, but she was recently passed over for promotion to the rank of Captain after, she claims, her male colleagues acted “rude and disrespectful” towards her.
Forshaw is claiming monetary damages against Qantas and is calling on the airline to set gender-based hiring quotas in order to increase the representation of women across the airline.
The Australian reports that Forshaw claims she received a poor performance review after rejecting an unwanted sexual advance from a male pilot while on a layover in Bangkok.
In one bizarre interaction with a male Captain, Forshaw claims the pilot asked her if she was “one of those ‘O’ women”. When she asked what he meant, the Captain allegedly explained: “Women who are ‘O’ffended at everything”.
And in an incident as recent as this year, Forshaw claims a male Captain was shocked to discover that he was working with a female pilot on an international flight to Rome.
In the past, Forshaw also claims male colleagues got her to fetch them coffee during an engineering briefing while her most recent attempt to become a Captain ended in failure.
Over just three months, Forshaw made five complaints of gender discrimination to Qantas’ human resources department, but her colleagues who were the subject of the complaints were returned to full duties after the complaints couldn’t be substantiated.
Qantas says it has taken Forshaw’s complaints seriously but wasn’t aware of some of the allegations until the lawsuit was filed in federal court. The airline says it has already been in contact with Forshaw for further information so that it can conduct an investigation.
“We took immediate action when Ms Forshaw made her complaint after being unsuccessful in a module required to be promoted to a captain,” a spokesperson for Qantas said. “The employees she accused of discrimination or misconduct were stood down from work while we investigated. The claims of discrimination were not substantiated.”
The airline says that just 10 female pilots applied for promotion to the rank of Captain since 2019. Nine of those pilots achieved the promotion, leaving just Forshaw to be unsuccessful.
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.