New Orleans Saints

Tom Benson's wife, Gayle, accused of racially harassing his former assistant

By RAMON ANTONIO VARGAS

THE NEW ORLEANS ADVOCATE

JOHN McCUSKER/THE ADVOCATE
Saints and Pelicans owner Tom Benson looks over the Smoothie King Center with former longtime personal assistant Rodney Henry. Henry is now suing the Saints.
JOHN McCUSKER/THE ADVOCATE Saints and Pelicans owner Tom Benson looks over the Smoothie King Center with former longtime personal assistant Rodney Henry. Henry is now suing the Saints.

The former longtime personal assistant to Tom Benson who claims he is owed a significant amount of back pay alleges in new court papers that his dismissal this summer was timed to occur after he was questioned in a mental competency lawsuit filed against the Saints and Pelicans owner early last year.

The filing Tuesday also alleged Rodney Henry was fired after complaining that Benson’s wife, Gayle, had made “racially derogatory comments to and about” him.

A Saints spokesman said the team had no comment about Henry’s claims.

Henry originally sued the Saints in New Orleans federal court in November, alleging that the team broke U.S. labor laws by not paying him overtime even though he regularly put in 16-hour days servicing the Bensons’ various needs.

According to Henry, the Saints put him on an annual salary of $50,000 rather than an hourly wage, exempting him from collecting overtime pay under federal law. But the suit contends such a status normally is reserved for high-ranking executives, which Henry was not, and he therefore should have been paid the typical 11/2 times his regular salary on the frequent occasions he had to work more than 40 hours a week.

Last week, the Saints countered by saying Henry had signed a work agreement requiring him to turn to National Football League Commissioner Roger Goodell to arbitrate any disputes he had concerning his employment with the team.

Henry responded on Tuesday by adding the Bensons as individual defendants in an amended lawsuit that now alleges he was routinely “treated ... with disdain and disrespect” by Gayle, often over the objections of her husband.

One example supposedly happened at the Saints’ 2014 training camp at White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia. Henry alleges that Gayle Benson forced him to “stay in a small room which had no air conditioning and no towels ... (and) only had bunk beds designed for children to sleep in.”

Henry alleges that Tom Benson was “outraged” when he learned of Henry’s accommodations and, in front of Gayle, told him to move to a full-sized room.

According to the suit, Gayle then said the smaller room “was perfect” for Henry, and once her husband left the room, she screamed at the assistant, “I hate you.”

Later that summer, the suit alleges, Tom Benson asked Henry to take him to the hospital. Henry said he obeyed and then unsuccessfully tried to contact Gayle Benson.

Once Tom Benson was settled at the hospital, the lawsuit alleges, Gayle Benson called Henry and asked, “Why did you take my husband to the hospital, you black son of a bitch?”

Read more of this story on The New Orleans Advocate's website.

  Comments