Two JetBlue flight attendants sued the airline and two of its pilots in federal court this week, alleging that the pilots drugged them both during a layover last year and that one of the pilots raped one of the women and another co-worker.
The lawsuit also accuses the airline of failing to take disciplinary action against the pilots when the women reported the assault last year.
The women, referred to as Jane Doe 1 and Jane Doe 2, are seeking unspecified damages from the airline and the pilots, Dan Watson and Eric Johnson, for aggravated sexual abuse, assault and battery, sex discrimination and civil rights violations. The lawsuit was filed Monday in U.S. District Court in the Eastern District of New York.
“The allegations in the complaint are obviously very serious and what happened to these women is horrific, but the bigger concern is how JetBlue handled it and the fact that no corrective action was taken,” their lawyer, Abe Melamed, said Thursday.
“One of the plaintiffs has continued to bump into one of the pilots and has an immediate visceral reaction and goes to the bathroom and vomits every time it happens,” he added. “They feel like this is a large part of what airline culture is. It lends itself to these sorts of issues.”
The suit says the airline’s inaction after it learned of the alleged assault amounted to the company “allowing sex discrimination, gender discrimination and a hostile work environment.”
Representatives from JetBlue declined to answer questions about the lawsuit, but the company said in a statement that it “takes allegations of violent or inappropriate behavior very seriously and investigates such claims thoroughly.”
“We work to create a respectful workplace for all our crew members where they feel welcome and safe,” the company said.
A representative for Akerman LLP, the law firm that represented the airline and the pilots in an earlier stage of the case last summer, did not respond to a request for comment Thursday night.
The episode happened in Puerto Rico in May when the plaintiffs and a third female crew member, who is not a party to the lawsuit, were on an overnight layover in San Juan after working a flight from Washington, the lawsuit said.
After checking in to their hotel, the women went to the beach, where they noticed two men nearby who were drinking beers they had brought in a lunch bag, court filings said. The group began chatting and soon realized they all worked for JetBlue.
Johnson handed a beer to one of the women, who drank some and passed it to the other two, the lawsuit said. “The beer was laced with a drug, and after that point, the rest of the night became a blur,” the lawsuit states.
The lawsuit said that after the women became incapacitated, the pilots took them to the InterContinental Hotel. Neither plaintiff could remember leaving the beach nor how they got to the hotel, the lawsuit said.
Watson took Jane Doe 2 to her room but did not rape her because she was vomiting from the drugs, which he found to be “a turnoff,” the lawsuit said. Watson left her room “after having been scratched” but was accused in the lawsuit of drugging the woman “with the intent to rape.”
In court filings, Jane Doe 1 said her first memory after being on the beach was of Johnson raping her while her co-worker, the third woman, lay beside her. Court filings said Jane Doe 1 “felt the influence of the drug” but “was unable to react to the situation” and “was simply aware that it was happening.”
The lawsuit said that after Johnson raped Jane Doe 1, he raped her co-worker and then told the women, “Thank you for making my fantasy come true.”
The women awoke the next morning, still ill from the drugs, and worked together on a flight to Newark, New Jersey, where they talked to each other about the night before, court filings said.
Jane Doe 1 emailed Johnson to ask if he knew whether he had any sexually transmitted diseases, and he responded that he would get tested. When she returned to her home in Riverton, Utah, Jane Doe 1 went to a hospital to report that she had been raped.
While there she was tested for STDs and learned that she had been infected with human papillomavirus by Johnson, the lawsuit said.