A former Hawaiian Airlines flight attendant has been awarded $510,000 by a Circuit Court jury in a sexual harassment case involving a pilot and the airline.
The former attendant reported to her supervisors that the pilot, Gary J. Kissinger, grabbed her buttock while passengers were leaving the plane after an interisland flight.
According to the woman's attorneys, Bruce Kim and Ronald Albu, her supervisors didn't take any action to protect her. The attendant claimed the company failed to take her complaint seriously when she reported Kissinger had sexually harassed her and that he was not adequately reprimanded for his actions.
The jury Tuesday awarded $120,000 in compensatory damages to the flight attendant, $250,000 in punitive damages against Hawaiian Airlines and $140,000 in punitive damages against Kissinger. The company and Kissinger would also cover attorney fees for the former flight attendant.
Hawaiian Airlines spokesman Keoni Wagner said the company is surprised by the verdict.
"Hawaiian Airlines does not tolerate harassment of any kind involving its employees and we took immediate and appropriate action in this case. As such, we were surprised by the verdict and don't believe the facts support a finding against the company, and we are considering an appeal," he said in a statement.
On Oct. 11, 2002, the flight attendant was deplaning passengers when Kissinger grabbed her buttock, according to the lawsuit.
Albu said his client screamed and jumped back into the deplaning passengers.
No action was taken by her superiors and the attendant was harassed by Kissinger for the rest of the day, he said.
"He tried to rub her back," Albu said. "He tried to engage her several times. He made her uncomfortable through the rest of the day."
Following the incident, the flight attendant took about nine months of voluntary unpaid leave and quit her job about a year after the initial complaint.
She had been employed with the company two years before she resigned.