Skift Take

Richard Branson might be a contender for the king of lechery, and Steve Wynn's sexual harassment scandal didn't come as a surprise to some, but the lawsuit against Travel Leaders Group, if the allegations turn out to be true, is a reminder that you don't have to be a household name to be held accountable.

A former vice president at Travel Leaders Group, among the largest U.S.-based travel agencies, has filed a lawsuit against the company alleging sexual harassment, discrimination, and wrongful termination.

The defendants include Travel Leaders Group, Ninan Chacko, CEO, and John Lovell, president of Travel Leaders Network and Leisure Group.

Plaintiff Mai Meyaart alleges in her complaint (embedded below) that Chacko and Lovell unfairly denied her advancement within the company, especially after Meyaart consistently rejected Lovell’s repeated sexual advances, lewd comments, and propositions for sex.

Meyaart alleges that an incident at the Boca Beach Club in Florida was a catalyst for Meyaart’s denied opportunities for advancement, as well as another incident in Las Vegas. The plaintiff initially filed the suit in Florida state court and it subsequently moved to a federal court in the state.

“We have reviewed this case and we believe these claims to be meritless,” said Travel Leaders Group when asked for comment. “We will vigorously defend that position and have no further comment on this litigation beyond our filing.”

Meyaart, who seeks a jury trial and monetary relief, didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Meyaart served as a vice president at Travel Leaders Group, working on hotel strategy, from 2012 to July 2017, when she was terminated. According to Meyaart’s complaint, her accomplishments included increasing the hotel division’s earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization by 400 percent, and receiving widespread praise for driving the success of the hotel division.

The lawsuit said Meyaart went five years without a salary increase despite the positive feedback on her job performance. In Travel Leaders’ answer to the complaint (embedded below) the company minimized Meyaart’s contributions to her division, as well as her qualifications for certain employment roles.

The plaintiff’s suit claims that Lovell and management told Meyaart that her sudden termination was the result of no other roles being available to her. However, at the same time, the suit claims, a man was hired for an un-posted senior vice president of strategic partnerships role, for which Meyaart was qualified but not interviewed. Her lawsuit alleged additional examples of being passed over for promotions that were given to men with less experience and fewer qualifications.

Meyaart was allegedly “passed over for promotions, demoted, underpaid, had bonuses
reduced over time without justification, denied salary increases, denied equal pay, defamed, unfairly criticized, propositioned for sex, harassed, and ultimately wrongfully terminated without cause,” according to the lawsuit.

The suit describes the work environment at Travel Leaders Group as “toxic, male-dominated, good ‘ole boy, misogynistic, and dysfunctional, which victimized and discriminated against women.”

The lawsuit follows other allegations of sexual misconduct in the travel industry. Steve Wynn, the founder of Wynn Resorts, was forced out of the company over sexual harassment claims and a settlement. And, Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Group, has been accused of sexual assault and promoting sexist images.

The travel industry already suffers from a historical lack of female executives, despite women comprising a massive consumer and employment market.

These lawsuits come in the context of the wider Me Too movement across the United States, in which women are increasingly going public with their stories of sexual harassment and discrimination in industries as wide-ranging as government and entertainment.

Here is plaintiff Mai Meyaart’s complaint, followed by defendant Travel Leaders’ answer.

Download (PDF, 1.45MB)

Download (PDF, 58KB)

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Tags: discrimination, sexual harassment, travel agents, travel leaders group

Photo credit: A former vice president of Travel Leaders Group is suing the company alleging sexual harassment, discrimination, and wrongful termination. Travel Leaders Group

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