A former WestJet flight attendant’s class-action lawsuit against the airline has been certified by the B.C. Court of Appeal.
In a decision published on Tuesday, the court overturned a previous ruling by the B.C. Supreme Court, which had dismissed Mandalena Lewis’ application.
Lewis, who used to be based out of Vancouver International Airport, has been battling the airline through the courts for about six years, originally alleging that WestJet breached its contract by failing to provide a safe work environment for female flight attendants.
She also launched a separate lawsuit against the company, claiming it didn't take proper action after she reported being sexually assaulted by a pilot while on a stopover in Hawaii, adding that the airline chose to protect the pilot instead of her.
Lewis’ first attempt at the class-action suit failed just over a year ago, when B.C. Supreme Court Justice Karen Horsman wrote that “I conclude that there are other reasonably available means for class members to achieve substantive and procedural justice that are more practical and efficient than a class proceeding.”
The judge added that the likes of the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal or collective bargaining would have been a more appropriate place for the case to be heard.
Judge overturns Supreme Court ruling
However, B.C. Court of Appeal judge Peter Voith found that the lower court had made mistakes when evaluating the class-action lawsuit, pointing out that a human rights tribunal would have limitations.
"In a human rights complaint, only those class members who had actually suffered discrimination, in the form of harassment or otherwise, could potentially seek monetary compensation," wrote Voith in his decision, adding that the class action wasn't alleging harassment but breach of contract.
Back in 2019, the Richmond News reported how WestJet lost its appeal for the original case to be thrown out.
That suit alleged that the airline had a work culture that tolerated harassment of female employees.
Back then Lewis said that the case was a “really big deal, and it’s not just a big deal for women within WestJet but across the work field in Canada.”
She added back then that the lawsuit intends to represent all of WestJet's past and current female flight attendants whose employment contract included an anti-harassment promise.
None of the allegations contained in the lawsuit have been proven in court.
The Supreme Court of Canada is also open to WestJet, should it choose to appeal the latest decision.