WestJet’s attempt to limit period in class-action lawsuit over workplace harassment denied by Supreme Court of British Columbia

A WestJet plane takes off from Toronto's Pearson International Airport. Photo: John McArthur/UnSplash

The Supreme Court of British Columbia has dismissed an application by WestJet to limit the class period in a lawsuit alleging the airline breached its employment contracts regarding a harassment-free workplace policy.

But it did amend the class definition slightly to end on Feb. 28, 2021.

The class action, certified against WestJet, is led by Mandalena Lewis and represented all current and former female flight attendants employed from April 4, 2014, to April 19, 2022.

The lawsuit argues that WestJet neglected its duty by failing to implement a comprehensive anti-harassment program and not adequately addressing harassment complaints, leading to a systemic breach of contract. It seeks compensation for the financial benefits that WestJet purportedly reaped from this omission.

The legal contention centered on the period applicable to the class action. WestJet proposed that the class period should end on July 31, 2018, when the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) was certified as the bargaining agent or upon the subsequent ratification of the collective agreement.

But the court disagreed.

“I find that it is not plain and obvious that the court lacks jurisdiction to determine class members’ common law claims for breach of the Anti-Harassment Promise in the period between CUPE’s certification on July 31, 2018 and ratification of the Collective Agreement on March 1, 2021,” it said.

“Nor is it plain and obvious that the court lacks jurisdiction over such claims for class members who subsequently became bound by the Collective Agreement.”

As such, WestJet’s application to amend the class definition to conclude on July 31, 2018, was denied. Instead, the class period will end on February 28, 2021, it ruled.

No costs were awarded in this ruling.

For more information, see Lewis v WestJet Airlines Ltd., 2023 BCSC 1921 (CanLII)

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