Former Houston Texans Cheerleader Files Class-Action Wage Suit
A former cheerleader for the Houston Texans has filed a putative class action suit against the Texans and the team’s cheerleading coach, Altovise Gary, claiming unpaid wages, wrongful termination, and other labor violations including a failure to remedy reports of physical abuse by fans. The named plaintiff, identified as P.G.G., has sued under the Fair Labor Standards Act and Texas Labor Code, seeking remuneration for hours spent working “off-the-clock” and unpaid overtime.
P.G.G. worked as a Texans cheerleader from April 2017 to April 2018. In her time with the team, she alleges that she was contracted to work 40 hours per week. Despite the terms of the contract, P.G.G. alleges that cheerleaders were expected to be “on call 24/7.” The complaint lists many “required activities” that exceeded the scope of the time the cheerleaders were compensated for. Among the required activities are regularly posting to social media, responding to team emails within ten minutes, mandatory workouts, spray tanning, autograph sessions, and hundreds of hours of travel.
The cheerleader also makes a wrongful termination claim, alleging she was cut from the team solely in retaliation for her efforts to change the coach’s policies and practices. The complaint alleges that the coach told a cheerleader she had “belly jelly,” going as far as duct taping one cheerleader’s stomach to show the rest of the team “how much better it looks.” Cheerleaders also reported being physically assaulted by fans when they were required to enter the stands as part of a promotion. The complaint alleges that nothing was done to insure the cheerleaders’ safety after the coach knew of the incidents. After one cheerleader reported the actions of the coach to human resources, she was “moved to the back of every dance and consistently and aggressively harassed.” The named plaintiff and others who reported the coach were cut from the team in last minute auditions for this season.
In a statement made to The Washington Post, the Texans said, “We are proud of the cheerleader program and have had hundreds of women participate and enjoy their experience while making a positive impact in the local community. We are constantly evaluating our procedures and will continue to make adjustments as needed to make the program enjoyable for everyone.”
The case against the Texans is the most recent in a line of wage violation cases filed against NFL teams by cheerleaders. The Cincinnati Bengals, New York Jets, Oakland Raiders, and Tampa Bay Buccaneers all paid settlements totaling more than a combined $2.6 million to cheerleaders who sued for wage violations.
Also, as first reported by The New York Times, cheerleaders from the Washington Redskins sued the team after they were allegedly required to pose topless for a photo shoot in front of team sponsors and suite holders. In March 2018, a former New Orleans Saints cheerleader filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission alleging wrongful termination due to discriminatory policies.