Flight attendant's bullying claim fails

Photo / NZ Herald
Photo / NZ Herald

An international flight attendant claiming she suffered sexual comments from a drunk passenger and bullying by managers has failed in a personal grievance claim against Air New Zealand.

The Employment Relations Authority (ERA) ruled Jennifer Kilpatrick did not file her complaint against the airline in time.

During a flight from Vancouver to Auckland on February 17, 2010 Ms Kilpatrick said she was subjected to abuse, some of it of a sexual nature, by a drunk passenger.

The passenger became abusive and threatening, and was detained by police when he arrived in Auckland, said the ERA finding.

Operating procedures require crews to file operational occurrence reports and for debriefing sessions to be held with a manager.

However, Ms Kilpatrick claimed the flight service manager, identified as H in the finding, dismissed her concerns about the incident with the passenger, failed to arrange a debrief and ``merely suggested that she obtain an apology from the passenger'', said the finding.

Five days later she requested an apology from management, citing a lack of support.

In a private meeting over the issue on May 17 with another inflight service manager, identified as M, it was implied she should drop the complaint or there would be ``adverse consequences'', said the finding.

Ms Kilpatrick learnt H had been through a disciplinary process over the way her debrief had been handled and no disciplinary action had been taken, which upset her.

In a letter to M on May 18, Ms Kilpatrick set out her account of the previous day's exchange, saying she had a number of concerns and was seeking advice about how to deal with the issue from a third party.

However, the letter ``fell short of raising Ms Kilpatrick's concerns in a way that enabled Air New Zealand to comprehend she had a personal grievance'', ERA member Rosemary Monaghan found.

On December 22, 2010, Ms Kilpatrick sent a letter to the general manager of inflight services raising a complaint around her employment ``as a result of the harassment and bullying I have been subjected to over 2010 and the disadvantage that has flowed from that''.''

She listed issues with inflight service managers, and said these had also contributed to her failing an examination on emergency procedures.

The issues had prompted her to seek counselling and medical advice, she said.

The letter amounted to a personal grievance but was raised outside the necessary 90-day period, said the ERA finding.


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