A B.C. woman and former flight attendant at WestJet was told to leave Vancouver International Airport for infringing on airport policy, after handing out anti-sexual harassment pamphlets to travellers earlier this month.
Mandalena Lewis is leading a class action lawsuit against the airline alleging it failed to protect flight attendants from systemic sexual harassment following her own alleged sexual assault by a pilot.
On July 6, Lewis said she was handing out pamphlets about her #crewmetoo campaign outside the U.S. and International departures terminal.
But shortly after arriving, Lewis was approached by YVR personnel and communications staff, who asked her to leave.
“Initially, I was told by security that my expression was fine,” Lewis said in a letter she has since sent to the Vancouver Airport Authority.
“Shortly thereafter, I was told that I had to stop handing out pamphlets on the basis of a ‘conflict of interest’ with a major airport tenant. I asked for more information about that conflict, but it was never provided.”
In an emailed statement to Black Press Media, Vancouver Airport Authority communication specialist Tess Messmer said the airport was not aware that Lewis would be protesting ahead of July 6.
#MeToo At Work: Sexual assault and harassment in the B.C. workplace
“We typically ask individuals or groups who plan to protest, picket and/or strike at YVR to work closely with our operations team in advance of their activities to ensure minimal disruption to our passengers and operations,” Messmer said, adding that if a group does give notice, the airport authority will help find a spot near the terminal building.
According to the airport authority, handing out pamphlets is generally prohibited, Messmer said, as most of the paper and other materials end up being discarded, and can negatively impact YVR roadways and building cleanliness.
“More significantly, these materials, if caught by the wind and carried, could also pose a possible risk YVRs airside operations,” Messmer said.
Lewis said she plans to return on July 20, and Messmer said the airport has been in touch with Lewis.
In January, WestJet filed an appeal after a B.C. Supreme Court judge refused to throw out the lawsuit in December, 2017.
The airline argues Justice Mary Humphries was wrong to have dismissed the company’s application to strike the legal action, repeating its argument that the dispute belongs before a human rights tribunal and workers’ compensation board.
In addition to the class-action lawsuit, Lewis earlier filed another legal action against the company. In that claim, which has been placed on hold while the class action proceeds, Lewis says was sexually assaulted by a pilot while on a stopover in Hawaii in 2010.
None of these allegations have been proven in court.
WATCH: Mandalena Lewis talks about fixing harassment-prone workplace culture
With a file from The Canadian Press
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