A former flight attendant says that an honest conversation with a colleague has somehow lead to his unfair dismissal.
Ayanda Mpolweni, 24, says that he was undergoing training for Comair Limited, under British Airways, back in 2018 when he had a conversation with a colleague that lead to him being shown a photo of said colleague in Bangkok, Thailand, who asked him to guess where he was.
After Mpolweni, who identifies as gay, was informed of where the location of the photo was taken, he replied: “Ohkay, Bangkok! That’s a very gay-friendly city. I love Bangkok, but it’s dodgy, why would anyone travel there…?”
The colleague had later failed his training, claiming Mpolweni’s views had distracted him. Mpolweni was then told by his manager that he was accused of sexual harassment.
“I am still trying to understand how it [the conversation] went from Bangkok, gay-friendly, to sexual harassment.
“In my understanding, sexual harassment is when you make sexual advances toward people and not what I said to him.
“I want to prove my innocence because as a gay man, if a straight man accuses me of sexual harassment, you know who the company is going to believe, who society is going to believe. I refuse to keep quiet and accept that I harassed someone,” said Mpolweni.
Comair has responded to the accusation stating: “Comair runs its business with integrity, fairness and transparency. We have zero tolerance for any form of discrimination or any behaviour related to sexual harassment.
“We aim to ensure that customers and employees are treated fairly and with respect. Each incidence of misconduct brought to our attention is investigated and dealt with accordingly,” Comair’s corporate communications head, Susan van der Ryst, said.
News24 confirmed that Mpolweni was dismissed on July 30, 2018, following a report of sexual harassment.
Mpolweni, however, says that he was not given a chance to defend himself at a disciplinary hearing, despite Comair saying all the necessary steps were followed before he was dismissed.
“It was towards 17:00 after training on the day when I was told that I am accused of sexual assault. I was then on sick leave, when I came back to work I was fired. I took them to the CCMA [Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration] and they appealed the same day.
“They never had a disciplinary hearing, they never gave me a warning,” he said.
The dispute between the company and Mpolweni is currently at the CCMA. Comair said it would not be giving any further details as it is now with the CCMA.