Photo Credit: Daniel Benavides / CC by 2.0
Following sexual harassment and body-shaming allegations from dancers she’d employed on her tour, Lizzo is now grappling with a hostile work environment lawsuit from another former team member, fashion designer Asha Daniels.
Daniels submitted the shocking complaint to a California federal court, specifically alleging that she’d been the victim of sexual harassment, racial harassment, disability discrimination, and even assault during her brief time on The Special Tour.
The allegations mainly involve Lizzo’s staff, and the Project Runway All Stars contributor Daniels named as defendants the “Truth Hurts” artist, her touring company, wardrobe manager Amanda Nomura, and tour manager Carlina Gugliotta alike.
According to the almost 50-page action, Daniels first assisted Lizzo’s tour in September of 2022, when she “designed custom pieces for the dancers.” January of 2023 then saw the aforementioned Nomura reach out and inquire about the possibility of Daniels’ signing on to an in-person role to ensure that the dancers’ outfits were “altered and repaired correctly.”
The plaintiff “rearranged her schedule, canceling her fashion show and missing out on other work opportunities to accept joining” the tour “as a favor to” Nomura, who was her primary management point of contact, per the suit. (Of course, the compensation and potential career advantages at hand presumably factored into the decision as well.)
In any event, Daniels “was looking forward to” becoming part of the tour because of Lizzo’s publicly displayed values, “i.e., a healthy, diverse environment with virtues of respect and empowerment of women,” the action shows.
But when the plaintiff started in the position on February 14th of this year, the “disappointing reality of working on” the tour “sunk in” at once, according to Daniels, who claims to have “often” worked seven days a week, from 6 AM until 2 AM.
Moreover, Nomura allegedly denied breaks to and “constantly monitored and policed” the interactions of Daniels, who believes that the pressure “to always work while she was on the tour” resulted from orders given by Lizzo’s management.
Moving beyond these broader allegations and supplemental information about the professional environment (Daniels “was specifically instructed to never interact with LIZZO herself because LIZZO would be jealous,” per the text), the plaintiff is said to have observed the mistreatment of background dancers.
About 10 of these dancers were “forced to change in and out of their clothing in small, tight, changing areas during all the shows with little to no privacy whatsoever,” the complaint indicates, when members of the “stage crew, primarily white males,” would allegedly “lewdly gawk, sneer, and giggle while watching the dancers rush through their outfit-changes.”
Nomura allegedly “laughed at” the plaintiff’s related concerns and encouraged her “not to alert anyone else about the issue or try to fix the issue,” according to the legal document, with Daniels subsequently identifying the situation as “a set up to humiliate, degrade, alienate, and, in some cases, fire, the Black female performers.”
Next, Daniels was allegedly “forced to hear racist and fatphobic comments” from Nomura, who’s said to have mocked “the dancers and LIZZO by doing an offensive stereotypical impression of a Black woman” before brushing off the plaintiff’s concerns about the “offensive” behavior.
On the assault front, Daniels, who’d purportedly been “promised that she would not have to perform physically demanding duties,” allegedly moved “a heavy rack of clothing” with Nomura shortly after starting the job. Nomura allegedly “rolled the rack over” the plaintiff’s foot and, when told that Daniels needed a break due to the resulting pain, “shoved” her into said rack.
Daniels then lost her balance, injured her ankle, and, the following day, began wearing “orthopedic shoes” to minimize the pain, per the complaint. But Nomura allegedly “forced” her to change into “painful tennis shoes so that she could move heavy cases while injured.”
Finally, echoing claims made by other parties, Daniels allegedly observed Nomura, the stage crew, and Lizzo’s management “openly discussing hiring sex workers for lewd sex acts, attending sex shows, and buying hard drugs” in Amsterdam – talks that allegedly made her feel “pressured to join such activities.”
And in a separate episode, “a backstage manager sent a photo graphically depicting male genitalia” to a tour-staff group chat that included the plaintiff, the text claims, with Lizzo’s management having allegedly “found the image to be comical, further encouraging an unsafe, sexually charged workplace culture.”
Despite allegedly being ordered not to approach management with workplace concerns, the plaintiff is said to have informed Carlina Gugliotta of the above-noted alleged issues; the tour manager ostensibly passed along word of the alleged problems to Lizzo, but the “toxic work environment continued without change.”
Meanwhile, the plaintiff was allegedly “abruptly fired… without notice or reason” and then “put on a March 6, 2023 flight home.” Daniels, who claims to suffer from PTSD, anxiety, “migraines and migraine-induced eye twitch and ocular distortions, brain fog, and fatigue” as a result of her stint on the tour, is seeking a variety of damages, compensation for medical expenses, and more.