By Stacey Leasca
October 28, 2019
Boarding1Now/Getty Images

Southwest Airlines is on the defensive after a flight attendant filed a lawsuit against the airline. According to court records, the crew member is alleging the airline retaliated against her for reporting a bizarre and inappropriate incident while on board a 2017 flight.

Southwest crew member Renee Steinaker alleged in her lawsuit that she witnessed pilots live-streaming a video in the cockpit from a camera they hid in the bathroom. Southwest is denying the claim.

According to Business Insider, Steinaker claims she was working on a flight from Pittsburgh and Phoenix when she was asked to enter the cockpit so that one of the two pilots, Terry Graham, could use the bathroom as per Southwest’s policy requiring two people in the cockpit at all times. However, upon entering the cockpit Steinaker claims she saw an iPad mounted on the plane’s windshield that appeared to show live footage from inside the plane’s forward bathroom.

Steinaker said in her lawsuit that the copilot, Ryan Russell, “panicked” when he realized she saw the device. According to Steinaker, he tried to claim it was part of a “top secret” security measure implemented by Southwest.

Beyond the iPad, Steinaker also alleges both pilots immediately disembarked the aircraft upon landing, which is also against Southwest policy.

Following the flight, Steinaker says she immediately reported the incident to the airline. It was then, however, that Steinaker and her husband David, who also works for the airline, say they started to receive retaliation. According to the couple, they faced additional performance audits, drug testing, and were monitored by managers in a "threatening and bizarre manner,” according to The Washington Post. The lawsuit also notes that the two pilots remain on duty and are still allowed to fly despite the allegations.

For its part, Southwest provided a statement to The Arizona Republic that reads, "The safety and security of our employees and customers is Southwest's uncompromising priority. As such, Southwest does not place cameras in the lavatories of our aircraft.”

It added, "Southwest will vigorously defend the lawsuit. When the incident happened two years ago, we investigated the allegations and addressed the situation with the crew involved. We can confirm from our investigation that there was never a camera in the lavatory; the incident was an inappropriate attempt at humor which the company did not condone. At this time, we have no other comment on the pending litigation."

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