Lizzo has been sued by a trio of her former touring dancers for sexual harassment, assault, discrimination and fostering a “hostile work environment.”
In a broad complaint for unspecified damages filed this morning in LA Superior Court, Arianna Davis, Crystal Williams, and Noelle Rodriguez also allege that they were body shamed, put through a self-described “excruciating” audition for their own jobs after drinking on the clock accusations and held to prohibitive “soft hold” retainers. Naming four-time Grammy winner Lizzo herself, a.k.a. Melissa Jefferson, plus Big Grrrl Big Touring, Inc., and Shirlene Quigley, the head of the performer’s dance team, the suit vividly describes the dancers being forced to attend and participate in sex shows while on tour, having their virginity mocked, being subject to religious diatribes, and a case of “false imprisonment” (read it here).
“As the headlining act of ‘The Special Tour’ it was clear that Lizzo was the ultimate decision-making authority and supervisor of Plaintiffs,” the filing states. “Additionally, as dance cast captain, Ms. Quigley also held a supervisory role within the production,” it adds. “At no point did anyone from BGBT management nor Lizzo’s step in to put an end to this inappropriate behavior. Accordingly, Defendants are strictly liable for Lizzo’s and Ms. Quigley’s harassing behavior.”
Touring with Lizzo up until they were axed earlier this year, Davis and Williams were among the 13 contestants on the Emmy-winning Lizzo’s Watch Out for the Big Grrrls, which debuted its first season on Amazon Prime Video last year. In the suit, the duo detail during filming in 2021 they were subject to nude photo shoots and at least one “psychological examination” on Davis, who “struggles with anxiety and depression which occasionally results in binge eating.” Rodriguez was brought on board later for one of Lizzo’s videos and then tour dates. Supposedly exiting to a loud “Bye, Bitch!” from Lizzo herself after a tense confrontation, Rodriguez quit in early May this year not long after Williams was fired.
The suit also claims racial discrimination from the all-white management team against Davis, Williams and other non-African American dancers:
The conduct of Defendant BGBT created a hostile work environment for Plaintiffs, making the conditions of their employment intolerable in direct contravention of various statutes and state law decisions, including but not limited to California Government Code §12940(h) and (j). Plaintiffs were subjected to a hostile work environment due to, including but not limited to, BGBT’s management deriding Ms. WILLIAMS, Ms. DAVIS, and the other black members of their dance team as lazy, unprofessional, “snarky,” and generally having bad attitudes. None of these same allegations were leveled against dancers who are not black. After Ms. WILLIAMS was fired in a hotel lobby, in front of the entire dance cast, and Ms. RODRIGUEZ confronted Ms. Gugliotta about how unprofessionally she handled terminating Ms. WILLIAMS. Ms. Gugliotta responded, “we’ve never had any problems with you,” seeming to imply that Ms. RODRIGUEZ, one of the few members of the dance cast who is not black, was not painted with the same generalized and unfounded criticisms as the black members of the dance cast.
“As a proximate result of Defendants’ conduct, Plaintiffs also suffered severe emotional distress, anxiety, pain and suffering, physical injuries, physical sickness, medical expenses, future medical expenses, attorneys’ fees, and other damages to be determined at trial according to proof,” says the suit from Ronald Zambrano of LA-based West Coast Employment Lawyers.
Representatives for Lizzo have not responded to request from Deadline for comment on the suit. If and when they do, we will update. UTA-repped and Atlantic Records signed Lizzo has recently been in Japan at the 2023 Fuji Rock Festival.
Content Source: deadline.com