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Florida pilot sues Southwest Airways after colleague exposes himself on flight – Tampa Bay Occasions

FORT LAUDERDALE — A Southwest Airways pilot is suing the corporate, her union and a former colleague who pleaded responsible final yr to dead-bolting the cockpit door throughout a flight and stripping bare in entrance of her.

Christine Janning alleges that Southwest retaliated by grounding her after she reported Michael Haak to the corporate and the FBI, that it saved him employed regardless of an alleged historical past of sexual misconduct and that managers disparaged her in memos.

She additionally alleges that the Southwest Airways Pilots Affiliation conspired with the airline and refused to assist her. She is suing Haak for sexual assault. He pleaded guilty last year to a federal misdemeanor cost of committing a lewd, indecent or obscene act and was sentenced to probation.

Haak’s lawyer, Michael Salnick, mentioned Wednesday that his shopper disrobed solely after Janning inspired him to, by no means did anything and that there have been no earlier incidents. Southwest mentioned it supported Janning and that it will “vigorously defend” itself towards the lawsuit. The union didn’t reply to a cellphone name in search of remark.

The Related Press doesn’t usually determine individuals who say they’re victims of intercourse crimes, however Janning by her lawyer agreed to the usage of her title.

In line with the lawsuit filed final week in Orange County, Florida, Janning had by no means met Haak earlier than August 2020, when she was his co-pilot on a flight from Philadelphia to Orlando. She says Haak, a 27-year veteran of the airline, had used his seniority rights the day gone by to bump one other pilot who had been scheduled to command the flight. Janning believes that’s as a result of he noticed a lady was the scheduled co-pilot.

Janning mentioned that after they reached cruising altitude, Haak informed her this was his closing flight and there was one thing he needed to do earlier than retirement.

She mentioned he bolted the door so no flight attendant might enter. He then put the aircraft on autopilot, stripped off his garments, started watching pornography on his laptop computer and dedicated a lewd act for half-hour whereas taking images and movies of himself.

Salnick mentioned it was Janning who requested Haak if there was something he needed to do earlier than retiring. When he replied he needed to fly bare, she informed him to go forward after which made sexual advances after he disrobed, Salnick mentioned. He mentioned Haak rejected these and adamantly denied a lewd act occurred.

At his sentencing listening to final yr, Haak referred to as the incident “a consensual prank” that acquired out of hand.

Janning’s lawyer, Frank Podesta, denied she inspired Haak or made any advances.

Janning mentioned within the lawsuit that she was “horrified,” however she saved flying the aircraft whereas taking images “to create a file.” The aircraft landed safely.

And that wasn’t Haak’s closing flight — he flew for 3 extra weeks.

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In the meantime, Janning didn’t report the incident to a Southwest worker relations investigator till three months later. She mentioned she waited as a result of her boss had disparaged her to a male colleague beforehand. She mentioned she requested the investigator to not inform her boss, however she did.

Janning says she was quickly informed that as a result of Haak had retired, the airline’s investigation was closed. Janning then went to the FBI, which charged Haak. She alleges Southwest had despatched Haak to a Montreal sexual harassment counseling middle after a 2008 incident involving a flight attendant.

Salnick says this incident by no means occurred and Haak was by no means despatched to a counseling middle.

“This particular person will do and say no matter is critical to acquire a monetary windfall. I really feel sorry for her,” Salnick mentioned.

Janning mentioned as retaliation for the FBI report, she was grounded for greater than three months, costing her a part of her wage. She was then required to take “pointless” flight simulator coaching earlier than she might work once more.

She additionally mentioned that on the day she was grounded, the airline stranded her in Denver and the FBI needed to e-book her a United Airways flight so she might return residence to Florida. She mentioned a Southwest supervisor despatched a memo to greater than 25 staff “that made baseless allegations” about her flying competency.

Southwest denied Janning’s allegations, saying “we instantly supported (Janning) by cooperating with the suitable exterior companies as they investigated.”

“Our company Tradition is constructed upon treating others with mutual respect and dignity, and the occasions alleged on this state of affairs are inconsistent with the habits that we require of our Workers,” the assertion learn.

Janning mentioned that when she contacted the union, its leaders did nothing to assist her however did write a letter to Haak’s decide throughout his misdemeanor case saying he had a “spotless” file.

No hearings have been scheduled.

By TERRY SPENCER, Related Press.

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