Thearticle with the heading “WestJet wants B.C. court to toss proposed classaction that alleges harassment in Global news”, speaks about the case of Former flight attendant Mandalena Lewis of WestJet, the Calgary-based airline, who sued theairline for gender-based discrimination and sexual harassment, accusing them offostering a corporate culture that tolerates harassment against its femaleemployees. None of the allegations have been proven in court; Mandelena Lewisfiled a lawsuit claiming the airline broke a contractual “promise” to preventits employees from experiencing harassment in the workplace.
TheCompany’s Lawyer, Don Dear, said “WestJet is not disputing the substance of theallegations but believes the arguments are being heard in an improper venue butthat it would be better dealt with through a human rights tribunal or worker’scompensation board rather than the British Columbia Supreme Court”. Opposinghis argument, Karey Brooks, co-counsel for Lewis, disagreed with WestJet’sassertion that the courts were an inappropriate venue to hear the case.Furthermore,Lewis filed an earlier lawsuit against the airline claiming WestJet violatedits anti-harassment policy in its response to her complaint of beingsexually assaulted by its pilot at a stopover in Hawaii. Mandelena Lewis saidthe airline asked her not to talk about the incident. The pilot was barred fromflying to Hawaii, in effect protecting him from being arrested by Maui police,who had opened an investigation into the case.
WestJet rejected the allegationsof failing to take appropriate action after she reported the incident. In itsstatement of defense, WestJet claimed that an internal investigation waslaunched immediately the Lewis complaint was filed but the company wasultimately unable to conclude the pilot committed an assault.IMPACT AND ACTIONS This article has shownthat WestJet HR practice has not been efficient in its establishment andexecution of its HR policy on gender-based discrimination which resulted to theharassment of its former employee who has sued the company for fostering acorporate culture that tolerates harassment against its female employees whichcan lead to the brand of the company being misrepresented.
If the previous casefiled by Lewis was handled efficiently, I believe a case like this will notrepeat itself, especially not to the same employee. The brand of a business describes how it willbe perceived and what will be said of it. “According to Soko in his paper he concludedthat Employees today are choosing to work for reputable organizations, theyconsider employers who value their employees and treat them fairly; he alsostated that Organizations must aim to be employers where potential employeesare attracted to work and existing staff remain loyal and perform for the goodof the whole business. Further stating that there is the need for employers tomeasure, analyze and position their brand to the job market where they willattract the right people with the right skills in the shortest period”. (Soko)As a result of thisevent, the Company may be perceived to be slack on its HR policies which canmake it unattractive to exceptional and potential employees, plus loss of loyaland committed employees within the organization. This can also lead to loss ofbusiness opportunity to their existing and potential competitors.HR POLICES IF IMPLEMENTED WOULD HAVE MADE A DIFFERENCES INTHE CASEAn organization where there is no law or policy, there willbe no offences therefore conflict and issues are inevitable. The issues faced in the article explained above aregender based discrimination and sexual harassment.
Gender based discrimination means being biases based ongender. In some part of the world the feminine gender does not have the sameopportunities as the masculine in areas such as education, meaningful careers,political influence and economic advancement and so on. Sexual Harassment– are unwanted sexualadvances. “According to Renckly the keystone of every company’s defensein protecting itself against any type of employee relations lawsuits, is aclear written company policy signed by the president of the company and statingthe support of and intention to strictly adhere to the provision of theparticular law in question”.
Every employee should each have a copy of thispolicy. (Renckly)No organization shouldtolerate any form of discrimination or harassment of any kind to or from anyemployee, they are expected to create a good working environment for theirstaff, free from any form of harassment, discrimination, bullying and inappropriatebehavior. All employees are to be treated with respect, dignity and courtesy. The human resource department isresponsible for defending the employees against discrimination and harassment;therefore, a policy that speaks to all employee about discrimination andharassment should be enacted, a process of reporting in case of violation andan appropriate sanction for the culprit should be put in place and adhered tostrictly.
Employees who violate this policy should be sanctioned. If foundguilty of violating the policy; persons who violate the policy should besubject to termination of employment, civil damages or criminal penalties.The human resourcedepartment of WestJet airline should have set up a committee to handle the caseand ensure that necessary steps and compensation is taken and made to preventthe company from facing court trials that will lead to financial loss.
If the policy was implemented and executed effectively, theLewis case would have been investigated properly and WestJet pilot would havebeen dealt with accordingly if found guilty of sexual harassment and this wouldin turn save the company the risk of being labeled a gender baseddiscrimination airline that encourages sexual harassment. If the humanresources department had been more effective and efficient in resolving theissue it might not have escalated to a lawsuit. Sexual harassment is a cruel form of discriminations andhuman resources professional should ensure that the law that prohibits sexualharassment in workplace is effectively implemented and executed in everyorganization. WestJet telling Mandelena Lewis to remain quiet about theincident shouldn’t be the response, when the policy clearly states that whenharassed, a report should be made to the appropriate authority. The humanresource should have prevented the company from portraying itself to befavoring the pilot, a detailed investigation should have been carried out. WestJet barred thepilot from flying to Hawaii there by protected him from arrest by Maui police,who had opened an investigation into the case even after sexually assaultingMandelena Lewis, these shows lack of respect and gender discrimination.
WestJetcould have prevented the whole issue if they had a proactive human resourcesdepartment. The human resources department should have handled the case wellwhich will make it clear to all employee that all forms of harassment anddiscriminations are not acceptable. The case could have been settled withoutgoing to court if the appropriate measures were put in place. WestJet HR directorsshould have ensured that after Mandelena Lewis reported the case they arrangedan investigation meeting of the allege harassment, inviting both the complainerand the accused to the meeting, ensuring they are both aware of the seriousnessof sexual harassment, explain the company’s policy and to prepare a writtenreport. Once this is done they should ensure that they submit a summarized copyof the report with recommendations to the company officials, ensuring that the pilotis sanctioned accordingly and notifying the complainer and accused of theactions taken.
If WestJet HR directorshas done this it would have made a difference.