Pilot sues Southwest Airlines after colleague exposes himself

FORT LAUDERDALE, FL (CBSDFW.COM/AP) — A Southwest Airlines pilot is suing the company, her union and a former colleague who pleaded guilty last year to locking the cockpit door during a flight and undressing before her eyes.

Christine Janning alleges Southwest retaliated by putting her under house arrest after reporting Michael Haak to the company and the FBI, keeping him at work despite an alleged history of sexual misconduct, and executives discrediting her in memos.

She also alleges that the Southwest Airlines Pilots Association colluded with the airline and refused to support her. She’s suing Hook for assault. He pleaded guilty last year to a federal charge of committing a lewd, indecent or obscene act and was sentenced to probation.

Haak’s attorney Michael Salnick said on Wednesday that his client only undressed after Janning encouraged him and never did anything else. Neither Southwest nor the union responded to calls asking for comment.

According to the lawsuit filed last week in Orange County, Florida, Janning had never met Haak before August 2020, when she was his copilot on a flight from Philadelphia to Orlando. She says Haak, a 27-year veteran of the airline, had used his seniority rights the previous day to bump into another pilot who was scheduled to lead the flight. Janning thinks that’s because he saw a woman was the scheduled copilot.

Janning said that when they reached cruising altitude, Haak told her this was his last flight and that he wanted to do something before retiring.

She said he locked the door so no flight attendant could get in. He then put the plane on autopilot, took off his clothes, started watching pornography on his laptop, and committed a lewd act for 30 minutes while taking pictures and videos of himself.

Salnick said it was Janning who asked Haak if he wanted to do anything before retiring. When he replied that he wanted to fly naked, she told him to continue and made sexual advances after he undressed, Salnick said. He said Haak rejected it and adamantly denied that any lewd act had taken place.

At his sentencing hearing last year, Haak called the incident “a consensual joke that got out of hand.”

Janning’s attorney, Frank Podesta, denied that she had encouraged Haak or made any advances.

Janning said in the lawsuit she was “shocked”, but she continued to fly the plane while taking pictures “to create a record”. The plane landed safely.

Janning reported the incident to a Southwest employee investigator three months later, and the company allowed Haak to fly for another three weeks before retiring. She said she was waiting because her boss had previously belittled her in front of a male co-worker. She said she asked the detective not to inform her boss, but she did.

Janning says she was soon informed that the airline’s investigation was closed because Haak had retired. Janning then went to the FBI, who charged Haak. She claims Southwest sent Hook to a sexual harassment center in Montreal after a 2008 incident involving a flight attendant.

Janning said she was placed under house arrest for more than three months in retaliation for the FBI report, which cost her part of her salary. She then had to undergo “unnecessary” flight simulator training before she could return to work.

She also said that on the day she was grounded, the airline had stranded her in Denver and the FBI had to book her a United Airlines flight so she could return home to Florida. She said a Southwest executive sent a memo to more than 25 employees “making baseless accusations” about her flying skills.

She said that when she contacted the union, the leaders did nothing to help her, but wrote a letter to Hook’s judge during his criminal trial stating that he had a “spotless” criminal record.

No hearings are scheduled.

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