In a lawsuit filed on Tuesday, three dancers say that touring with the Grammy winner put them in an “overtly sexual environment” where they were bothered.
Lizzo, her production company, Big Grrrl Big Touring Inc., and the dance captain for the tour, Shirlene Quigley, are all defendants in the lawsuit. Credit… Associated Press/Amy Harris/Invision
On Tuesday, three of Lizzo’s former dancers filed a lawsuit against her in Los Angeles Superior Court. They said that the Grammy-winning singer and the captain of her dance team made the work environment on her Special Tour this year unsafe.
The plaintiffs’ law firm gave The New York Times a copy of the lawsuit, which said that the dancers were “exposed to an overtly sexual atmosphere that permeated their workplace.” This included “outings where nudity and sexuality were the focus,” the lawsuit said. NBC was the first to say about the suit.
Lizzo, whose real name is Melissa Jefferson and not her stage name, is one of the defendants. So is her production company, Big Grrrl Big Touring Inc., and the tour’s dance captain, Shirlene Quigley. It doesn’t say if the singer knew about the claims made by the plaintiffs about Ms. Quigley or not.
Lawyers for the three dancers say that Lizzo and Ms. Quigley were involved in several incidents that, among other things, amounted to sexual and religious harassment and weight-shaming.
The lawsuit says that Ms. Quigley “made it her mission to preach” Christianity to the dancers and was obsessed with virginity while Lizzo sexually harassed them.
The lawsuit says that Lizzo once was at a nightclub in Amsterdam and started asking employees to touch naked performers and handle props like dildos and bananas.
The lawsuit says that a dancer “acquiesced” to touching the breast of a naked female performer out of fear of retaliation, even though she had repeatedly said she didn’t want to.
Tuesday, people working for Lizzo and her production company did not respond immediately to requests for comment.
Arianna Davis and Crystal Williams, two plaintiffs, started performing with Lizzo after competing on her reality show “Watch Out for the Big Grrrls” on Amazon Prime in 2021. Lizzo said at the time that the show was a chance to give plus-size dancers a chance to be seen. The lawsuit says Ms. Davis and Ms. Williams were fired in the spring of 2023.
A third plaintiff, Noelle Rodriguez, was hired in May 2021 to be in Lizzo’s music video for “Rumors,” she stayed on as a member of her dance team. The lawsuit says Ms. Rodriguez quit shortly after Ms. Davis and Ms. Williams were fired.
Some accusations seemed to go after Lizzo’s reputation for promoting body positivity and being open to everyone.
On Monday, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, Ron Zambrano, said, “It’s shocking how Lizzo and her management team treated their performers. It seems to go against everything Lizzo says she stands for in public.” He said that Lizzo “weight-shames and insults her dancers in ways that are not only illegal but also very demoralizing” in private.
Some of what Lizzo said to the dancers made Ms. Davis, who had been diagnosed with a binge eating disorder, think that she had to “explain her weight gain and disclose intimate personal details about her life to keep her job,” the lawsuit says.
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Since her big hit “Truth Hurts” topped the charts in 2019, Lizzo has made “feel-good music” and self-love popular. She has also celebrated diversity in all forms by making empowerment anthems, making a shapewear line for all sizes, and getting millions of views on social media.
She won the Record of the Year Grammy for “About Damn Time” this year.
Diana Reddy, an assistant professor at the School of Law at the University of California, Berkeley, said that allegations that don’t fall into legally protected categories could hurt Lizzo’s message of body positivity and “could certainly encourage a settlement.”
She said it’s hard to prove a hostile work environment in the unusual entertainment business, so the plaintiffs’ lawyers might be hoping for a settlement. “People who sue for employment discrimination don’t do very well in court,” Ms. Reddy said.