An unnamed NFL player has sued United Airlines, saying staff failed to respond properly when he complained a female passenger sexually harassed and assaulted him on a February flight.
The civil suit, filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court on Monday, seeks unspecified statutory and punitive damages from the airline.
According to the lawsuit, the player and another male passenger seated in the same row made multiple complaints to flight attendants that the woman also seated in the row was making "unwanted sexual advances" before she was moved to a different seat.
The two men, both listed as "John Doe," are suing United, the lawsuit says, because the airline refused to give them the name of the woman, the flight attendants and potential witnesses, and because the airline failed to follow policies to respond to sexual harassment and assault on the February 10 overnight flight from Los Angeles to Newark, New Jersey.
The woman's inappropriate behavior began with badgering the player about his decision to wear a face mask in light of increasing concerns about Covid-19.
After complaints to flight attendants were ignored, the harassment continued into sexual assault of the NFL player, with the female passenger "grabbing and groping his quads and then stroking her hand across his lap towards the inside of his leg near his genitals," the lawsuit claims.
One attendant who was passing witnessed some of the misconduct and warned the woman to stop, but the harassment escalated.
Eventually the woman pulled off the player's face mask and grabbed his genitals before he left his seat and complained in front of other passengers that the woman was touching him.
With the player out of his seat, the woman moved over a seat and grabbed the other man's leg and "groin area," the plaintiffs say.
Flight attendants finally moved the woman to another row, but the suit claims that United's failure to act more quickly was a breach of its duty to protect and care for its passengers.