A Southwest Airlines (LUV) pilot is suing the airline, her union and an ex-colleague after the co-worker locked the cockpit door and stripped naked in front of her.
According to the lawsuit, which was reported by AP News on October 6, 2022, Christine Janning accused the airline of grounding her after she reported her co-pilot, Michael Haak, to the company and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).
She also said that the airline continued to employ her co-worker despite an alleged history of sexual misconduct, according to AP News.
The incident took place in August 2020, during a passenger flight from Philadelphia (PHL) to Florida (MCO).
According to Janning, when they reached cruising altitude, Haak allegedly told her it was his final flight and there was something he wanted to do before retirement. She said he locked the door so no one could enter and put the plane on autopilot before stripping naked. She also said that he began to watch pornography on his laptop, before committing a lewd act for 30 minutes while taking photos and video of himself.
According to AP News, Haak pleaded guilty in May 2021 to a federal misdemeanor charge of committing a lewd, indecent or obscene act. US Magistrate Judge J. Mark Coulson sentenced Haak to one year of unsupervised probation and a $5,000 fine. Haak at the time said the incident was a “consensual prank” that had got out of hand.
However, it was later revealed that it was not Haak’s final flight with the airline and, AP News reported, and he continued to fly for a further three weeks.
Meanwhile, Janning didn’t report the incident to a Southwest employee relations investigator until three months later. She said the reason she had waited was because her boss had disparaged her to a male colleague previously.
Janning claimed that she was told by management that because the captain had retired, the airline’s investigation was closed. She went to the FBI, who charged the captain.
Janning said as retaliation for the FBI report, she was grounded for more than three months. She was then required to take flight simulator training before being permitted to return to active duties. In the legal claim, Janning called the move “unnecessary” and alleged that the air carrier sent emails to employees that made “baseless allegations” about her flying competency.
The Southwest Airlines Pilots Association, which represents the interests of the airline’s flight crew, has also been involved in the recent legal action, with Janning alleging that the union had conspired with Southwest Airlines (LUV) and did nothing to support her.
According to AP, Southwest Airlines (LUV) said it supported Janning and would defend itself against the lawsuit. Haak’s lawyer told AP that his client only disrobed after Janning encouraged him to and never did anything else. The report said that the union couldn’t be reached for comment.