Legal Beat: Dancers Sue Lizzo For Harrassment

Three former dancers (Arianna Davis, Crystal Williams and Noelle Rodriguez) for singer-rapper Lizzo have sued her for harassment. In particular, the dancers accuse Lizzo of sexual harassment, creating a hostile work environment, religious and racial harassment and false imprisonment. The Los Angeles Superior Court lawsuit is against Lizzo (real name Melisa Viviane Jefferson), her dance captain, and her production company.

The allegations include pressuring one of the dancers to touch a nude performer at a strip club, forcing the dancers to engage in an “excruciating” audition after falsely accusing them of drinking while working, calling attention to the weight gain of one of the dancers and later harassing and then firing that dancer after she recorded a meeting because of a health issue. Lizzo is alleged to have stated that if she was unhappy with their performance at the rehearsal, they would be fired.

The dance captain is alleged to have criticized other dancers for premarital sex and sharing content of a sexual nature as well as the virginity of one of the plaintiffs.

The suit claims that Lizzo indirectly brought up the weight of dancer Arianna Davis at the South by Southwest Music Festival. It is surprising that these “fat shaming” allegations are being made against Lizzo who has been a big advocate for body positivity. According to the plaintiff’s attorney, Ron Zambrano: “The stunning nature of how Lizzo and her management team treated their performers seems to go against everything Lizzo stands for publicly, while privately she weight-shames her dancers and demeans them in ways that are not only illegal, but absolutely demoralizing,”

The suit alleges that after a performance in Amsterdam, there was an after-party at a strip club. Attendance at the after-parties was not required, but the plaintiffs allege that those who attended were given better treatment by Lizzo and had more job security. According to the complaint, at the club Lizzo started to invite her dancers to engage in various outrageous sexual acts, such as pressuring the dancers to touch the nude performers.

The racial discrimination claims revolve around racial and “fat-phobic animus” made by employees of Lizzo’s touring company. The dancers allege all the plaintiffs were full-figured  women of color. Plaintiffs allege that management treated the black dancers differently than the others.

The religious harassment allegations were against the dance captain, Shirlene Quigley, who was also a judge on Lizzo’s reality TV program. Plaintiffs contend that she preached about her Christian beliefs. She also “took every opportunity to proselytize to any and all in her presence regardless of protestations.” Quigley stated that “No job and no one will stop me from talking about the Lord.”

Lizzo responded to the allegations by stating she is “not the villain,” and that plaintiffs have admitted they were told their behavior while touring was not appropriate and that the allegations “…are not only baseless, but profoundly hurtful.”