Pilot sues Southwest after co-worker stripped naked in front of her during a flight

A Southwest Airlines pilot is suing the company, her union and a former co-worker who pleaded guilty last year to closing the cockpit door during a flight and stripping in front of her.

Christine Janning claims Southwest retaliated by firing her after she reported Michael Haak to the company and the FBI for keeping him employed despite his alleged history of sexual misconduct and that managers disparaged her in memos.

It also claims that the Southwest Airlines Pilots Union conspired with the airline and refused to support it. She sued Haak for sexual assault. He pleaded guilty last year to a federal misdemeanor charge of committing a lewd, lascivious or lewd act and received a suspended sentence.

Haack’s attorney, Michael Salnick, said Wednesday that his client only got off after Janning encouraged him and never did anything else. Neither Southwest nor the union returned calls seeking comment.

According to the lawsuit filed last week in Orange County, Florida, Janning had never met Haack before August 2020, when she was his co-pilot on a flight from Philadelphia to Orlando. He says Haak, a 27-year veteran of the airline, had used his seniority rights the day before to hit another pilot scheduled to fly the flight. Janning thinks this is because he saw a woman was the planned co-pilot.

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

“consensual farce”

He said he closed the door to keep a flight attendant out. He then allegedly put the plane on autopilot, took off his clothes, started watching porn 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 there was anything he wanted to do before he retired. When he replied that he wanted to fly naked, she told him to go ahead and then made sexual advances after stripping, Salnick said. He said Haak rejected them and vehemently denied that any lewd act took place.

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

Janning’s attorney, Frank Podesta, denied encouraging Haak or making any advances.

Janning said in the lawsuit that she was “terrified” but continued to fly the plane while taking pictures “to set a record.” The plane landed safely. And this was not Haak’s last flight – he flew for another three weeks.

Meanwhile, Janning didn’t report the incident to a Southwest employee relations investigator until three months later. She said she waited because her boss had previously downplayed her to a male colleague. She said she asked the investigator not to inform her boss, but he did.

Janning says she was soon told that because Haak had retired, the airline’s investigation was closed. Janning then went to the FBI, which indicted Haak. He claims Southwest sent Haak to a Montreal sexual harassment counseling center after a 2008 incident with a flight attendant.

Alleged retaliation

Janning said in retaliation for the FBI report, she was held captive for more than three months, costing her a portion of her salary. She was then required to take “redundant” flight simulator training before she could work again.

She also claimed that on the day she was arrested, the airline grounded her in Denver and the FBI had to book her a United Airlines flight so she could return to her home in Florida. He said a Southwest manager sent a memo to more than 25 employees “making unsubstantiated claims” about her ability to fly.

Janning said when she contacted the union, its leaders did nothing to help her, but wrote a letter to Haack’s judge during the misdemeanor case saying he had a “spotless” record.

No hearings have been scheduled.

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