In the #MeToo era, working women in a range of jobs and industries are saying, “Enough.” In a recent, shocking example, six former cheerleaders have taken legal action against the Houston Texans football team and cheerleading coach, alleging they worked in a hostile environment where body shaming, intimidation and bullying occurred regularly. This type of treatment is considered sexual harassment, a form of sex discrimination, and is illegal under federal law.
Gloria Allred is representing the women and has urged the National Football League (NFL) to make changes to support fair treatment of cheerleaders. “I believe that our lawsuit and the voices of our brave clients have made an important impact on the Houston Texans. As a result of their courage, there appears to be an important change taking place,” said Allred.
Body shaming, bullying and assault
Texans cheerleading coach Altovise “Alto” Gary resigned in late August, after lawsuits were filed. Cheerleaders accused her of calling them names and criticizing their looks. One says that Gary duct-taped her skin without her permission. Another was told she had to curl her hair or be replaced by another Hispanic girl. Several cheerleaders say the coach failed to take action and protect them when they were assaulted by fans.
Underpaid or not paid at all
In addition to the harassment claims, the cheerleaders say they were underpaid, receiving a wage of $7.25 an hour, or not paid at all for some of the time they worked. While traveling, the cheerleaders say they were not paid for some appearances and didn’t receive stipends for food.
Allred told CBS News, “Until there is justice for the cheerleaders by paying them fairly and compensating them the wages they are due, we will continue to fight and win them the respect and dignity they are long overdue.”