From fame to shame: Celebrities under legal fire for questionable employment practices

From fame to shame: Celebrities under legal fire for questionable employment practices

Celebrities seem to have it all: fame, fortune, and everything that goes with it. But having it all can also mean becoming a magnet for controversies.

And when a celebrity slips up, especially as an employer, the public can’t get enough of hearing about the juicy details. Celebrities are expected to behave as exemplary bosses, and when they don’t, expect a public backlash to occur.

Here are three high-profile celebrities who recently became subjects of controversy because of their supposedly questionable behavior as employers.

Truth hurts: Irony weighs heavy on Lizzo

Singer, rapper, and songwriter Lizzo, whose real name is Melissa Viviane Jefferson, rose to mainstream fame with songs like “Truth Hurts,” “Good As Hell,” and “Juice,” as well as her 2019 album Cuz I Love You. As a plus-size performer, Lizzo advocates body positivity and self-acceptance.

So, it was quite a shock when three of her backup dancers accused her of “subjecting them to weight-shaming and sexually denigrating behavior.” One of the dancers claimed that Lizzo accused her of lacking commitment to Lizzo’s 2023 tour, all because the dancer had gained some weight. Another dancer claimed that Lizzo forced her to inappropriately touch a nude dancer at a nightclub in Amsterdam in February 2023 despite repeatedly telling Lizzo that she didn’t want to do it. After the story broke, other former employees echoed the same accusations against the star.

Lizzo’s response? She hired notorious Hollywood lawyer Marty Singer, aka “Hollywood’s favorite legal hit man.” Singer won’t hesitate to do anything and everything for his clients to win. Lizzo’s plan to countersue the backup dancers is an “insidious attempt at intimidation,” according to the dancers’ lawyers.

Time will tell if Lizzo’s heavy-handed countermeasures will secure her a big win or will sink her career.

All I want for Carey is “sue!”

Mariah Carey is the only solo artist with the most number ones (19 songs) in Billboard chart history — proof that she can carry a tune to the top of the charts effortlessly. However, she may need to work harder at being an employer.

In 2015, Lianna “Azarian” Shakhnazaryan may have felt like she topped the charts when she became Mariah's assistant. But two years later, Mariah had Shakhnazaryan feeling so many emotions when the singer fired her assistant in November 2017.

In 2019, Shakhnazaryan sued the singer, claiming that Mariah subjected her to “battery and sexual harassment” for two years until she was “wrongfully terminated.” Then, on the same day, Mariah slapped Shakhnazaryan with a lawsuit, accusing her former assistant of shooting video footage of Mariah during private moments while doing “personal activities” of an “intimate” nature.

In 2021, the “Queen of Christmas” settled the lawsuit she filed against her assistant for an undisclosed amount. Maybe all she wanted for Christmas was peace.

Kim-possible to blame?

In May 2021, Kim Kardashian was sued “for wage theft, retaliation, and more” by seven cleaning and maintenance workers who serviced her home in Santa Monica. They accused her of not paying them their wages plus overtime, not given meal and rest breaks, and not providing them pay stubs and other employment documents. Plus, they claim one of them was fired for raising a stink about the working conditions.

According to Kim’s spokesperson, “These workers were hired and paid through a third-party vendor. Kim is not party to the agreement made between the vendor and their workers, therefore, she is not responsible for how the vendor manages their business.”

Outsourcing, subcontracting, using temp agencies, or misclassifying workers as independent contractors — this business model allows companies to avoid their obligations and responsibilities as an employer. Unfortunately, it’s now a common trend in many industries today.

Interestingly, Kim K is on her way to becoming a lawyer. She declared in 2019 that she plans to become a lawyer after registering with the California State Bar the year before. In 2021, she announced on Instagram that she finally passed the first “baby bar” exam after failing it three times. Earlier this year, she said she’ll take the official bar in February 2025.

Maybe she won’t need to hire a lawyer to defend herself against that lawsuit after all.

Not everyone can keep up with a Kardashian, and not everyone has the time, money, and celebrity status to become a lawyer and defend oneself from lawsuits. If you’re in Washington State and in need of a lawyer for family or personal injury matters, our team at Buckingham, LaGrandeur, & Williams will provide you with the necessary expertise and assistance. Visit our offices in Renton, or contact us today.