Ex-cheerleader lead plaintiff in lawsuit against Texans

HOUSTON -- A former Houston Texans cheerleader has filed a class-action lawsuit against the team as well as director of cheerleader programs and coach Altovise Gary. In the lawsuit, the woman alleges that she was not compensated fairly for her time and was subject to harassment from fans and from Gary.

Only one cheerleader, who is identified by the initials PGG, is a named plaintiff on the case. The plaintiff worked for the Texans as a cheerleader from April 12, 2017, to April 13, 2018.

According to the lawsuit, PGG seeks to "recover compensation for hours worked but not recorded or paid ('off-the-clock work'), failure to pay minimum wage and failure to pay overtime compensation."

The lawsuit alleges that PGG was paid for some of her work for the Texans but was not compensated for being "on call 24/7," for requirements the team had for social media, for her time spent in the gym and getting spray tans, for signing Texans calendars or for other events that were unpaid. According to the lawsuit, when the plaintiff worked more than 40 hours in a week, she was not compensated with overtime pay, as required by law.

According to the lawsuit, several cheerleaders reported being physically assaulted by fans during the 2017 season, but even after they reported the assaults to Gary, she "to their knowledge" did not take "steps to report the assaults or take steps to insure the cheerleaders' safety."

The lawsuit also claims that Gary made comments about the weight and bodies of several cheerleaders. Last season, according the the lawsuit, Gary told a cheerleader that "she had "belly jelly" and she was a "chunky cheek."

"Before one game during the 2017 football season, Coach Alto took a cheerleader to a secluded area of the stadium and duct taped her stomach skin underneath her shorts," the lawsuit alleges. "Coach Alto then brought that cheerleader in front of the rest of the squad and showed them how much 'better it looks.' At the next practice, Coach Alto pulled out a roll of duct tape and asked said cheerleader if she needed it."?

The Texans released a statement about the lawsuit to The Washington Post saying, "We are proud of the cheerleader program and have had hundreds of women participate and enjoy their experience while making a positive impact in the local community. We are constantly evaluating our procedures and will continue to make adjustments as needed to make the program enjoyable for everyone."

The Texans are not the first NFL team to have a lawsuit filed against them for their cheerleading practices. Earlier in the month, The New York Times reported that in 2013, Washington Redskins cheerleaders were required to pose topless in a photo shoot in front of people who had been invited to the event by the team.

In March, a former New Orleans Saints cheerleader filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission alleging that she was fired over "blatantly discriminatory" social media and fraternization policies that are different for cheerleaders and players.