It’s hard to imagine a more appropriate case for my first lawsuit as an attorney than that of Rhonda Mengert. Mrs. Mengert hugged her grandchildren goodbye after a Mother’s Day visit last month in Tulsa, Okla., and given that she is a frequent flyer for work and has PreCheck status, expected an uneventful security search.
Instead, two screeners at Tulsa International Airport decided to humiliate her. While patting down Mengert, a screener felt a pantyliner through her clothing. The standard procedure in this instance is to complete the pat-down, including the test for explosive residue on the screener’s gloves, and send the passenger on her way. For reasons still unknown to any of us, the screener instead called for a colleague and directed Mengert to enter a “private screening area” with them. (As a side note, I have always told my friends and readers: never go into a private screening area with the TSA. Miss your flight. Let them threaten you. Just don’t do it.)
Once in the private room, the screeners told Mengert that they needed to “clear the area” (“the area” being her underwear). After being asked how they would like to do that, the screeners directed Mengert to take down her pants and underwear down to her knees to show them the pad. Mengert was made to feel that she had no choice and complied. Having been forced to expose herself, Mengert had to ask four times before she was finally allowed to leave.
The TSA publicly states that “TSA does not include strip searches in its protocols.” But given that they were accused of doing basically the same thing to another woman last year, and seem to have a thing for strip searching older women, it seems the screeners and lower management have not gotten the message.
Mrs. Mengert retained me as counsel and last night I filed suit on her behalf against the TSA and the two screeners who inexplicably decided to break TSA policy and violate a woman, for being a woman, on Mother’s Day. The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Oklahoma, seeks injunctive and monetary relief. We hope this will be message received.
Mengert v. TSA – Complaint (.pdf)
If you know anyone who has been violated in a similar way, please contact me: corbettrights.com.