Retaliation against Southwest flight attendant no joke: attorney

PHOENIX, Arizona (KTRK) -- A Southwest flight attendant is receiving major retaliation after she filed suit on the airline when she reportedly discovered a hidden camera inside a bathroom used by both passengers and crew.

Renee Steinaker and her husband David Steinaker have filed a lawsuit in Arizona against Southwest in which she accuses the airline of trying to keep her quiet about what she allegedly found, with a supervisor warning, "if this got out, if this went public, no one, I mean no one, would ever fly our airline again," according to the suit.

Southwest release a statement saying, "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."

Steinaker's attorney responded to Southwest's statements saying, "Implicit in Southwest Airline's statement is an admission that the incident occurred as alleged by Renee Steinaker in her complaint, and for that we acknowledge the airline's position. It is also clear from its statement that Southwest palmed this egregious event off as a joke, and it still fails to recognize the gravity of the harassment and threat to the safety of the flight. A purpose of this suit is to make sure that the culture that treats sexual harassment and hostile working environments at 30,000 feet as a joke will, it is hoped, end with the successful conclusion of this lawsuit."

The lawsuit alleges Renee was working on Southwest flight 1088 from Pittsburgh to Phoenix on Aug. 23 when she noticed something strange in the cockpit as the captain went to use the restroom.

"When Plaintiff Renee Steinaker entered the cockpit, she saw an iPad mounted to the windshield left of the (captain's) seat. She saw live streaming on the video," according to the lawsuit.

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The lawsuit states Renee pressed co-pilot Ryan Russell for details after noticing images of Captain Terry Graham streaming on the iPad.

"With a panicked look on his face, Russell admitted that it was live streaming, but advised (Renee) that the cameras were a new security and top secret measure that had been installed in the lavatories of all Southwest Airlines' 737-800 planes," the lawsuit reads.

Renee alleges when Captain Graham returned from the restroom, he attempted to hide the iPad by obstructing her view with his body and arm.
When the plane landed in Phoenix, the lawsuit alleges both Graham and Russell immediately disembarked from the plane, described as "unusual and a violation of protocol."

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The lawsuit also says in the process of leaving the plane abruptly, "Graham left a loaded firearm unattended in the cockpit, a violation of FAA regulations."

Renee allegedly brought her concerns not only to the attention of the other flight attendants on board, but told Southwest Airlines personnel she believed the iPad contained videos recorded from the bathroom.

After reporting what happened, however, Renee said a supervisor told her "not to talk to anybody about what happened," according to the lawsuit.

The Steinakers allege the airline has also "engaged in a pattern of retaliation and monitoring efforts to silence and intimidate" them and the other Flight 1088 attendants, describing attempts to stalk them in a "threatening and bizarre manner."
The lawsuit lists unjustified "random" drug and alcohol testing and increased performance audits as examples of Southwest's alleged retaliation against the Steinakers and the other flight attendants.

All the while, Graham and Russel are still flying for Southwest Airlines without sanctions, the lawsuit states.

Southwest Airlines released this statement to ABC13:
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. At this time, we have no other comment on the pending litigation.

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