Lawsuit: Cher fired dancers for reporting alleged sex assault on tour

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LOS ANGELES (CNN) — Three dancers fired from Cher’s tour accuse the singer of covering up an alleged sexual assault by another dancer.

The allegations are part of a lawsuit filed against Cher and her touring company in Los Angeles Wednesday.

“These accusations are ridiculous and could not be further from the truth,” Cher publicist Liz Rosenberg told CNN Thursday.

While the complaint alleges racial discrimination by Cher, accusing her of hiring a white, blonde dancer over a more qualified African American, the lawsuit centers on California’s whistleblower law that protects employees who are fired for reporting illegal activity.

“Cher was personally involved in the coverup of a sexual assault against a female fan by one of her other male dancers while on Cher’s Dressed to Kill tour,” the suit said.

The alleged sex assault happened in a St. Louis hotel on June 3, after a show on the tour, the lawsuit said.

A recently-hired dancer invited a female fan to his hotel room, it said. The fan, identified as “Jenn,” later complained to another dancer, Jacquelyn Ballinger, that the male dancer pressured Jenn to have sex with him.

“When she refused, the dancer became angry,” the complaint said. “Jenn asked for Ms. Ballinger not to leave Jenn alone and for help, to which Ms. Ballinger obliged.”

Ballinger later told tour choreographer-dancer Kevin Wilson and dancer Suzanne Easter about the allegation. The three dancers “made numerous and repeated complaints” to Cher and tour managers “regarding the sexual assault of a female fan by an employee,” it said.

The dancers “were instructed not to tell anyone what had transpired” and “informed that management would ‘take care of the situation,'” the suit said.

All three dancers were fired a month after reporting the assault “whilst the dancer whom they accused of sexual assault remained gainfully employed,” it said. The dancer who allegedly assaulted the fan was put on “probation” only after the fired dancers hired a lawyer and prepared to sue, the complaint said.

“The purported reason given for the firing was ‘budget cuts,'” the suit said, even though Cher’s tour sold out every show and added more.

California law imposes penalties on employers for firing people for “protected whistle blowing activity,” which includes reporting violations of state and federal law, according to Perry Wander, the lawyer for the three dancers.

While it is primarily a whistleblower lawsuit, the complaint also alleges racial discrimination by Cher against African American dancers.

It accuses Cher of making a racist comment while reviewing audition tapes for dancers. After watching a “minority female dancer” who “particularly impressed” the choreographer and tour manager, Cher allegedly remarked “we have too much color onstage” and requested a white, blonde dancer. A blond haired, blue-eyed female was subsequently hired,” the suit said.

Wilson and Easter are “dark skinned African Americans,” according to the lawsuit.

“The pattern of racism and discrimination continued to permeate the tour when Wilson was prohibited by Cher and tour management from casting any dark skinned African Americans who auditioned, even if they danced better than their white counterparts.”

The lawsuit is asking the judge to immediately order Cher to rehire the three fired dancers for the remainder of the tour. It is also asking for at least $10 million in damages.

Cher, 68, launched her current tour in March, selling out all 49 shows in the first leg ending in July, according to Billboard magazine. Those shows grossed nearly $55 million from 610,000 fans.

Another 30 shows across the United States are on the calendar over the next two months.

CNN’s Matthew Carey contributed to this report.

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