A former Miami Dolphins cheerleader has filed a formal complaint against the Dolphins, the National Football League (NFL) and the Florida Commission on Human Relations. She is alleging discrimination and retaliation because of her religion and gender. She claims to have suffered such severe emotional and physical distress that after working three seasons, she resigned just a few weeks before her contract with the team was up.
The former cheerleader, a self-proclaimed Christian, claims she was subject to religious discrimination while working for the team. She posted a picture of her baptism on social media and was questioned about it by team officials. She claims those officials hold female NFL players to a different standard than male football players, regarding their expressions of faith on social media. She says that Dolphin football players can freely profess their faith publicly, whereas Dolphin cheerleaders’ expressions of religious beliefs are suppressed.
Multiple Forms of Discrimination
In addition to religious discrimination, the cheerleader also alleges gender discrimination (also called sex discrimination). She claims to have been told by two coaches during an annual work review to not publicly discuss her virginity, nor her decision to remain abstinent until marriage. She says that her director and coaches told her not to speak about her virginity to anyone, and she was told that she needed to “develop into a woman”.
She further alleges that certain Dolphins cheerleaders were told they could change their Instagram accounts to Dolphins Instagram accounts, on the condition that they only talk about fashion, fitness and cheerleading. According to the former cheerleader, when she expressed her desire to be a role model for little girls by sharing her faith and posting Bible verses, she was told that she could not mention Jesus or discuss religious topics in public.
After she went to human resources about the alleged discrimination, she claims that it became worse, and that she was retaliated against for coming forward. It was so pervasive that she began taking medication for anxiety and depression. She finally quit the team, after she was asked to write a motivational blog post for women trying out for the team, and some of her references to faith were removed.
Other NFL Cheerleaders Claiming Discrimination
The Dolphins cheerleader filed suit just one month after a New Orleans Saints’ cheerleader also came forward alleging that she was fired for posting a photo of herself on Instagram wearing a one-piece body suit. The post broke the rule prohibiting NFL cheerleaders from posting revealing images on social media – a rule that the Saints cheerleader says does not apply to men. The New Orleans Saints denies that the cheerleader was subject to sex discrimination.
An NFL spokesman says that the NFL is committed to fair employment practices and that everyone who works in the League is entitled to a positive, respectful environment free from all forms of discrimination. According to the NFL, it will be working with its clubs to share best practices in employment-related processes to ensure that cheerleading squads have a supportive workplace.
Cherry Hill Employment Discrimination Lawyers at McOmber McOmber & Luber, P.C. Represent Employers and Employees in All Types of Workplace Discrimination Claims
If you are an employee who experienced religious, gender, sex or any type of discrimination in the workplace, or if you are an employer facing accusations of workplace discrimination, contact an experienced Cherry Hill employment discrimination lawyer at McOmber McOmber & Luber, P.C.. We provide knowledgeable counsel to employers and employees throughout New Jersey, including Middletown, Cherry Hill, Marlton and Red Bank.