A Southwest Airlines pilot is suing the company, her union, and a captain who admitted to exposing his genitals in front of her during a flight from Philadelphia to Orlando.
In a case filed in late September in Orange County Circuit Civil Court, First Officer Christine Janning claimed that Southwest Airlines had retaliated against her after she complained about ex-pilot Michael Haak, who had been found guilty of a crime.
Southwest Airlines is accused of failing to adequately supervise Haak and of creating a hostile work environment by Janning’s attorneys in the 29-page lawsuit. Haak is being sued for sexual assault, and the Southwest pilots union (SWAPA) is accused of conspiracy to retaliate, while Haak is being sued for sexual assault.
Haak was given a $5,000 fine and 12 months of probation last year after admitting to acting in a “lewd, indecent, or vulgar” manner on his final trip as commander before retiring in August 2020.
In contravention of federal law, the civil lawsuit claims that Haak bolt-locked the cockpit door, undressed, and masturbated in front of Janning while watching pornography on his laptop.
According to reports, the confrontation continued for more than 30 minutes before Haak lost control. Janning claims that she took pictures as proof.
Haak has consistently insisted that what took place in the cockpit was voluntary and initially intended as a joke.
Before Janning filed a formal complaint of sexual harassment with the airline, several months had passed. According to Janning, Southwest refused to launch an internal investigation since Haak had already retired.
Janning subsequently made the decision to contact the FBI and, about a month later, gave testimony regarding the incident. Janning lost more than $30,000 in wages when Southwest abruptly chose to ground her at the same time.
According to the lawsuit, Southwest Airlines issued an internal memo urging staff members not to assist the FBI with their investigation and only later retracted the directive after investigators learned of the memo and warned the airline that it might be obstructing a federal criminal investigation.
In the meantime, allegations of sexual misbehavior against Haak are allegedly “concealed” by the Southwest Airlines Pilots Association (SWAPA). Haak is accused of sexually assaulting a flight attendant in her hotel room in one instance from 2008, and in another, he allegedly showed his genitalia to flight attendants after a flight.
Haak’s attorney denies that there were any previous incidents.
Southwest Airlines promises to “vigorously defend” itself against the grievances raised in Janning’s case, according to the company.
“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.