WestJet CEO’s response to sexual assault allegations

You may have read or seen stories in the media about a lawsuit filed against WestJet by a former employee, suggesting WestJet failed to take proper action after she alleged a pilot sexually assaulted her. We will file a statement of defense.

My commitment to our guests and to our people is to be transparent and forthcoming. I am writing directly to you, our guests, to provide you with as much information as I can. I am the accountable executive responsible for the safety and well-being of our more than 11,000 employees, which is a responsibility I do not take lightly.

Sexual assault is a serious matter. Every company has a responsibility to ensure the safety and well-being of all its employees, and this is a responsibility we take most seriously at WestJet. As a husband, father of a daughter and brother to a sister I understand how important it is to get this right, no matter the role or gender of the complainant.

Investigations did take place on these matters and they were subsequently closed. We are reviewing the investigations to ensure they were diligently carried out, and no new information has come to light since the investigations were undertaken six years ago. While this is underway, we are accommodating (out of active flying duty) those mentioned or otherwise affected by the alleged claims out of concern for their well-being and the continued safe operation of the airline.

Allegations are a serious concern whether true or untrue. We are acting in accordance with our code of conduct and ethics, and if new information comes out we will thoroughly investigate the matter.

Ours is a reporting culture, as it should be. Every day, thousands of our employees and tens of thousands of our guests expect a safe experience with WestJet and we are committed to providing one. We have an active whistleblower hotline and safety reporting system, which are evidence of our strong culture of reporting concerns to management. Regardless of its nature, each complaint made through our whistleblower hotline, including the outcomes of the investigations, is reported to the Safety, Health and Environment Committee of our Board of Directors. We have always treated any complaint with the seriousness it deserves and will continue to do so.

It was reported in the media today that there might be additional people who have come forward. The company has received no further information at this time. As has always been the case, we encourage our employees to report any concern that goes against our code of conduct or where they feel safety is at risk, and we urge them to bring any new information to our attention.

Other allegations have been made in the media that we have terminated employees for attempts to organize a union drive, a statement that is patently false. We have responded to a recent claim of such conduct with the Canada Industrial Relations Board (CIRB) and it is a publicly available document.

I am proud of the company we’ve built together and firmly believe that the more than 11,000 WestJetters who work hard every day to deliver our brand of friendly, caring service will continue to do so as we work through these as yet unfounded allegations.

I will continue to provide information as warranted and I thank you for your continued support.

This post was written by Gregg Saretsky, who was WestJet President and CEO from April 2010 until March 2018.