US pilot cited over alleged assault and battery after mask-related spat with colleague in bar

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Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 in Denver
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  • A US Southwest Airlines pilot has been cited for assault and battery after a mask-related argument at a hotel bar.
  • Southwest told Insider that the employee was put on leave amid an internal investigation.
  • Southwest told employees that "crossing the line in a heated conversation" can lead to termination, USA Today reported.
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A US Southwest Airlines pilot has been cited for assault and battery of a colleague over a mask-related argument at a California hotel bar, the airline and the San Jose Police Department confirmed to Insider.

Southwest Airlines told Insider in an email that an "off-duty disagreement between crewmembers" occurred on an overnight trip in San Jose, California on October 18. According to USA Today, the dispute took place between a pilot and a flight attendant.

The San Jose Police Department confirmed to Insider that the name of the alleged offender is Nick Barelli and the disagreement occurred at the DoubleTree hotel bar. Insider attempted to contact Barelli for comment via LinkedIn, but did not immediately hear back by time of publication.

Sergeant Christian Camarillo, public information officer for the San Jose PD, confirmed to Insider that "the event involved a disagreement over mask-wearing or masks."

Southwest told Insider that the pilot has been placed on leave while the company conducts an internal investigation, which is currently ongoing, but did not comment further. The case has been handed over to the Santa Clara County District Attorney's Office for review, the police department told Insider.

In a memo sent to pilots and flight attendants on October 22, Southwest vice-president of flight operations Bob Waltz and vice-president of inflight operations Sonya Lacore gave a stern warning about civility and expected employee behaviour, according to USA Today.

"Crossing the line in a heated conversation can be a violation of our guidelines for employees and can even end in loss of job," the memo reportedly said.

"We realise there has been a steady drumbeat over the last 19 months about civility and respectful discourse - and that is for good reason. Many of our people have been faced with an uncomfortable situation where their beliefs are not shared by someone else, resulting in a confrontation of some kind," the memo continued, as per USA Today. "And for every situation we hear about, there are dozens more for which we don't. It is vital that we treat everyone with respect and honour our differences without pushing our ideals on someone else."

Southwest Airlines' flight attendant union, TWU Local 556, backed their flight attendant in a statement to USA Today. A spokesperson for TWU Local 556 did not immediately respond to Insider's request for comment.

"We are aware of this matter and the fact that the investigation continues," the union told USA Today. "As with all flight attendants we represent, we will support our member in accordance with the law and our collective bargaining agreement."

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