An unnamed former Houston Texans cheerleader has filed a proposed collective action against the NFL team’s operating company and its cheerleading coach to recover unpaid minimum and overtime wages allegedly stemming from off-the-clock work. The suit, filed in Texas federal court, also seeks damages for the alleged retaliatory, abrupt nature with which the plaintiff claims the team ended her and other cheerleaders’ employment.
According to the 15-page complaint, the plaintiff worked for the Texans from April 2017 through April 2018. In addition to working games, the plaintiff was required to attend marketing events, meetings, photo shoots, apparel fittings, and rehearsals, as well as use a team-owned Twitter account during the course of her employment, the lawsuit says, all for $7.25 per hour.
The specific tasks for which the plaintiff claims she was paid no wages at all include:
Being required by the Texans to tweet every 48 hours during the off-season;
Being required to tweet multiple times per day during the regular season;
Continually monitoring her email to respond to Texans-related opportunities;
Responding to messages from the Houston Texans Cheerleaders Digital Team and coaches “within 10 minutes” of any email, Twitter direct message, GroupMe message, or other team communications;
Spending multiple hours per week in the gym;
Being required to get a spray tan before each game and team event;
Spending time signing “thousands” of Houston Texans calendars;
Attending multiple unpaid events;
Spending hundreds of hours traveling to and from events statewide;
Spending time retweeting other cheerleaders, as well as sending off tweets before every event and multiple times during games; and
Performing additional Texans activities required by the individual defendant.
“Essentially, [the named plaintiff] and her fellow cheerleaders were and are on call 24/7,” the case states.
Citing the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and the Texas Labor Code, the complaint claims the plaintiff should have been paid time-and-a-half overtime pay for the hours she worked for the team in excess of 40 each week.
Rounding out the lawsuit is the claim that the Texans wrongfully terminated the plaintiff and other cheerleaders in retaliation for participating in “Protected Activities”—what the suit describes as the cheerleaders acting in “a concerted manner in an effort to change [the defendant’s] policies, procedures, and activities”—in a way that “unlawfully interfered with their right to collectively bargain with their employer.” During the 2017 football season, the individual defendant took a cheerleader to a secluded area in the Texans’ stadium and, the lawsuit says, “duct taped her stomach skin underneath her shorts.” The individual defendant then paraded that cheerleader in front of the rest of the squad, noting how much “better it looks,” according to the complaint.
The plaintiff further alleges that after several cheerleaders reported being physically assaulted by fans, the individual defendant, after being informed of the problem, did nothing to report the alleged assaults or ensure the women’s safety. And these claims say nothing of the alleged verbal abuse Texans cheerleaders suffered at the hands of the individual defendant, who the suit says once targeted a Latina cheerleader for having straight hair, and another, asking in a rude manner if the woman had put on weight.
In April 2018, the plaintiff and other cheerleaders’ times with the team came to an abrupt end, as the women were all cut from the squad at the last minute during auditions solely for participating protected activities, the suit claims.