Mandalena Lewis poses for a photo at her home in Victoria on Monday, April 29, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito

Mandalena Lewis poses for a photo at her home in Victoria on Monday, April 29, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito

B.C. high court certifies former flight attendant’s class-action suit against WestJet

Ruling says the case centres on alleged failure to uphold the company’s anti-harassment promise

The British Columbia Court of Appeal has ruled a former flight attendant’s class-action lawsuit alleging breach of contract against WestJet can proceed.

The decision from a three-member panel released Tuesday, overturns a lower-court ruling that dismissed the application filed in 2016 by former WestJet employee Mandalena Lewis.

In written reasons, Justice Peter Voith says the lower court was wrong to conclude the case related to workplace discrimination and “systemic harassment at large” and should be heard by the Human Rights Tribunal.

Instead, the ruling says the case centres on the allegation that WestJet breached a specific contract with its flight attendants by failing to uphold the company’s anti-harassment promise.

The unanimous ruling by all three judges says the tribunal can’t consider contractual matters and handling the case as a class-action would provide an “access to justice advantage” over a hearing under the Human Rights Act.

Although none of Lewis’s allegations have been proved in court, Voith says he accepts that if the claims are upheld, WestJet flight attendants could be compensated from money the company allegedly saved by failing to uphold its contract.

The panel refused to certify the portion of the class-action that would set the amount of compensation, saying the matter should be decided later.

“(It) remains open to the trial judge, at the close of the common issues trial, to conclude that the statutory requirements for an aggregate award are met and to make such an award.”

When asked for comment, WestJet said in a statement that it is committed to maintaining a safe and harassment free environment. It said the company doesn’t comment on matters before the court.

—The Canadian Press

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