Are airlines ignoring sexual assault?

PUBLISHED 14 Dec 2018

They're the first responders to medical emergencies, deal with in-flight fires and evacuations, as well as handling bomb threats – all while ensuring each and every passenger has a safe and comfortable flying experience from take off to landing. However, it seems flight attendants aren't afforded the same level of care from fellow employees and passengers.

A recent report from the Transport Workers Union (TWU) shows that cabin crew suffer a significant amount of sexual assault – and not a lot is being done about it.

What did the survey find?

The TWU, along with help from major airlines including Virgin, Qantas, Jetstar, Tigerair and Alliance Airlines, wanted to lift the lid on sexual harassment in the industry. After speaking with around 400 flight attendants, they discovered that an astounding 65 per cent of cabin crew had experienced some form of sexual harassment.

Speaking to the TWU, one member of staff spoke out about the prevalence of sexual abuse.

"We are touched on the groin and buttocks region every single day – sometimes, every single flight."

Unfortunately, they're not alone. Other reports included:

  • Workers being pinned down and felt up by fellow employees.
  • Passengers exposing themselves to crew and asked to perform oral sex.
  • Highly sexualised comments from superiors and passengers.
  • Failing to progress after denying sexual propositions from managers.
  • Passengers pulling staff onto their laps mid-flight.

The report revealed that four out of five cabin crew had experienced this abuse from co-workers, while three out of five experienced it from passengers. So what can be done to prevent this problem from spiralling?

Are airlines doing enough to prevent sexual harassment?

Unfortunately, while sexual harassment is a common problem for many airline staff, 69 per cent of respondents said they did not report the incident. Of this, 39 per cent feared reporting it would make the situation worse. For those who did speak up, 84 per cent stated they didn't feel satisfied with how it was received.

"It was handled appallingly by management and compounded the pain and anguish already experienced by the event," said one flight attendant.

To top it all off, 78 per cent think their company isn't doing enough to prevent sexual harassment at work. However, employers have a duty of care to protect staff under the The Sex Discrimination Act. Here, they must take 'all reasonable steps' to make sure that there is no sexual harassment in the workplace.

If you've experienced sexual harassment in the workplace, you can make a complaint to the Australian Human Rights Commission. Having legal help on hand to guide you through this process is key to ensure you receive appropriate damages for your hardships. Get in touch with the team at Gerard Malouf & Partners today to see how we can help.

Call us now on 1800 004 878 to book a free appointment with one of my compensation experts, or email your enquiry.