A former Houston Texans cheerleader filed a federal lawsuit on Monday against the team and its cheerleading director, claiming that the cheerleaders were not compensated properly and that their director verbally harassed them and did nothing to safeguard them from abusive fans.
The lawsuit, filed in Federal District Court in Houston, alleges that the Texans paid the women $7.25 per hour, the state’s minimum wage, for their part-time work and required them to work unpaid overtime. The plaintiff, named in the lawsuit only by her initials, P.G.G., also says in the suit that the director, Altovise Gary, unnecessarily criticized the women’s bodies and purposely embarrassed them by saying they were overweight or flabby.
“They’d expect us to work no more than 30 hours a week, but then they’d expect us to respond to Twitter messages at 12:30 in the morning,” said the plaintiff, who was on the Texans’ cheerleading squad during the 2017 season. “I’ll repeat what Coach Alto said to us: ‘Ladies, this is a part-time job with full-time hours.’”
In response to the lawsuit, a Texans spokeswoman said that the team was proud of its cheerleader program and that hundreds of women had enjoyed their participation in it.
“We are constantly evaluating our procedures and will continue to make adjustments as needed to make the program enjoyable for everyone,” the spokeswoman, Amy Palcic, said in an emailed statement.
The plaintiff is seeking for her case to be certified as a class-action lawsuit, and two more cheerleaders are standing by to join as plaintiffs, said her lawyer, Bruse Loyd. He added that four other cheerleaders had also asked him if they could join the lawsuit.
The lawsuit is just one of several filed by N.F.L. cheerleaders in recent months, and it is yet another assertion by professional cheerleaders that they are not treated like proper employees and that they must endure harassment to remain on the team.
Earlier this month, former cheerleaders for the Washington Redskins said sponsors were invited to watch the women pose topless during a calendar photo shoot in Costa Rica in 2013.
Last month, former Miami Dolphins cheerleader Kristan Ware filed a complaint against the Dolphins and the N.F.L., alleging that she was discriminated against because of her religion and gender. In March, the former New Orleans Saints cheerleader Bailey Davis filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, saying Saints cheerleaders faced discrimination because they had to follow different rules — stricter rules — than the team’s players.
“I feel like this keeps happening and so many other girls are speaking out,” the main plaintiff in the Texans’ case said. “We need to fix things. With the Texans, we want the coach fired.”