Pilot sues Southwest after colleague exposes himself

Oct 5, 2022, 12:06 PM | Updated: 6:21 pm

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) — A Southwest Airlines pilot is suing the company, her union and a former colleague who pleaded guilty last year to dead-bolting the cockpit door during a flight and stripping naked in front of her.

Christine Janning alleges that Southwest retaliated by grounding her after she reported Michael Haak to the company and the FBI, that it kept him employed despite an alleged history of sexual misconduct and that managers disparaged her in memos.

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

Haak’s attorney, Michael Salnick, said Wednesday that his client disrobed only after Janning encouraged him to, never did anything else and that there were no previous incidents. Southwest said it supported Janning and that it would “vigorously defend” itself against the lawsuit. The union did not respond to a phone call seeking comment.

The Associated Press doesn’t normally identify people who say they are victims of sex crimes, but Janning through her attorney agreed to the use of her name.

According to the lawsuit filed last week in Orange County, Florida, Janning had never met Haak before August 2020, when she was his co-pilot 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 another pilot who had been scheduled to command the flight. Janning believes that’s because he saw a woman was the scheduled co-pilot.

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

She said he bolted the door so no flight attendant could enter. He then put the plane on autopilot, stripped off his clothes, began watching pornography on his laptop and committed a lewd act for 30 minutes while taking photos and videos of himself.

Salnick said it was Janning who asked Haak if there was anything he wanted to do before retiring. When he replied he wanted to fly naked, she told him to go ahead and then made sexual advances after he disrobed, Salnick said. He said Haak rejected those and adamantly denied a lewd act occurred.

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

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

Janning said in the lawsuit that she was “horrified,” but she kept flying the plane while taking photos “to create a record.” The plane landed safely.

And that wasn’t Haak’s final flight — he flew for three more 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 disparaged her to a male colleague previously. She said she asked the investigator not to inform her boss, but she 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 charged Haak. She alleges Southwest had sent Haak to a Montreal sexual harassment counseling center after a 2008 incident involving a flight attendant.

Salnick says this incident never happened and Haak was never sent to a counseling center.

“This person will do and say whatever is necessary to obtain a financial windfall. I feel sorry for her,” Salnick said.

Janning said as retaliation for the FBI report, she was grounded for more than three months, costing her part of her salary. She was then required to take “unnecessary” flight simulator training before she could work again.

She also said that on the day she was grounded, the airline 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 manager sent a memo to more than 25 employees “that made baseless allegations” about her flying competency.

Southwest denied Janning’s allegations, saying “we immediately supported (Janning) by cooperating with the appropriate outside agencies as they investigated.”

“Our corporate Culture is built upon treating others with mutual respect and dignity, and the events alleged in this situation are inconsistent with the behavior that we require of our Employees,” the statement read.

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

No hearings have been scheduled.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

FILE - Ozzy Osbourne arrives at the 62nd annual Grammy Awards at the Staples Center on Jan. 26, 202...
Associated Press

Ozzy Osbourne cancels 2023 European tour dates, cites injury

Hard rock legend Ozzy Osbourne announced the cancellation of his 2023 tour dates in the U.K. and continental Europe. Osbourne issued a statement early Wednesday saying damage to his spine suffered in an accident four years ago will prevent him from touring. “I am honestly humbled by the way you’ve all patiently held onto your […]
2 hours ago
A view of a placard as ambulance workers stand on the picket line outside Leeds Ambulance Station i...
Associated Press

Day of disruption in UK as thousands join mass walkout

LONDON (AP) — Thousands of schools in the U.K. are closing some or all of their classrooms, train services will be paralyzed and delays are expected at airports Wednesday in what’s shaping up to be the biggest day of industrial action Britain has seen in more than a decade, as unions step up pressure on […]
2 hours ago
Currency traders watch computer monitors at a foreign exchange dealing room in Seoul, South Korea, ...
Associated Press

Global stocks higher ahead of Fed rate decision

BEIJING (AP) — Global stocks rose Wednesday while Wall Street futures declined ahead of what traders hope will be the last Federal Reserve interest rate hike for some time. London and Frankfurt opened hire. Shanghai, Tokyo and Hong Kong advanced. Oil prices gained. Traders expect the Fed to raise its benchmark lending rate but hope […]
1 day ago
FILE - Abortion-rights protesters project messages to a building during an event sponsored by Susan...
Associated Press

Anti-abortion activists aim to sway GOP White House hopefuls

CHICAGO (AP) — Emboldened anti-abortion activists are looking to the 2024 presidential election as an opportunity to solidify their influence over the Republican Party. Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America, the most influential group in the anti-abortion movement, is telling each potential GOP presidential hopeful that to win its backing — or avoid being a target […]
1 day ago
FILE - Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell speaks during a news conference Wednesday, Dec. 14, 2022...
Associated Press

Powell likely to stress Fed’s inflation fight far from over

WASHINGTON (AP) — Inflation is cooling, and parts of the economy appear to be weakening. But Chair Jerome Powell is likely Wednesday to underscore that the Federal Reserve’s primary focus remains the need to fight surging prices with still-higher interest rates. With financial markets anticipating that the Fed will stop raising rates soon and possibly […]
1 day ago
Containers are seen at the country's largest port, in Busan, South Korea, on Jan. 10, 2023. South K...
Associated Press

South Korea logs record trade deficit as tech demand falls

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — South Korea logged its biggest monthly trade deficit ever, at $12.7 billion in January, as exports of computer chips and other high-tech items sank and costs for importing oil and gas surged, the trade ministry said Wednesday. The growing shortfall underscored how Russia’s war on Ukraine is straining the global […]
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

...
Fiesta Bowl Foundation

Celebrate 50 years of Vrbo Fiesta Bowl Parade magic!

Since its first production in the early 1970s, the Vrbo Fiesta Bowl Parade presented by Lerner & Rowe has been a staple of Valley traditions, bringing family fun and excitement to downtown Phoenix.
...
Quantum Fiber

How high-speed fiber internet edges out cable for everyday use

In a world where technology drives so much of our daily lives, a lack of high-speed internet can be a major issue.
...
Quantum Fiber

How high-speed fiber internet can improve everyday life

Quantum Fiber supplies unlimited data with speeds up to 940 mbps, enough to share 4K videos with coworkers 20 times faster than a cable.
Pilot sues Southwest after colleague exposes himself