Cheerleaders Are People (and Employees) Too

An Oakland Raiders cheerleader has filed a proposed class action lawsuit challenging the way in which cheerleaders are compensated by the NFL’s Oakland Raiders. The lawsuit alleges the team compensates its cheerleaders in the amount of $125.00 per home game, which comes out to $1,250.00 per season. When all the work performed by the cheerleaders is factored in (rehearsals, performances charity event, participation in the team’s annual swimsuit photo-shoot, and the games themselves), the suit alleges the actual base rate earned by the cheerleaders comes out to less than $5.00/hour.

The federal minimum wage requires employers to pay employees no less than $7.25/hour and California’s state minimum wage is $8.00/hour. Thus, if the allegations in the suit are accurate, the Oakland Raiders could be found to be in violation of both federal and state minimum wage laws.

The minimum wage issue is not the only issue raised in this lawsuit. The suit also alleges the Raiders withhold the cheerleaders’ pay until the end of the season in violation of a state law requiring pay at least twice a month. Indiana has a similar state law governing the frequency of wage payments.

Additionally, the suit alleges that Raiders cheerleaders must buy accessories such as tights, false eyelashes, and a yoga mat, and pay for a team-selected hairstylist, whose appointments cost several hundred dollars. If expenses such as these are incurred by independent contractors, there might not be any issue from a legal perspective. However, when employees are forced to incur expenses for work-related items, those expenses can open the door to multiple legal challenges, including minimum wage violations.

The suit also claims the team requires cheerleaders to forfeit the $125.00 per game wage if their performance is deemed unsatisfactory but still requires them to take part in pregame and halftime activities, a practice that could also violate several state and federal laws.

More details on this case can be found at:

http://www.sfgate.com/raiders/article/Raiderette-accuses-NFL-team-of-short-changing-its-5165922.php

http://tracking.si.com/2014/01/22/oakland-raiders-cheerleaders-file-suit-against-team/

http://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/nfl/raiders/2014/01/22/cheerleaders-raiderettes-lawsuit-wage-theft/4782315/

http://espn.go.com/nfl/story/_/id/10334429/cheerleaders-file-suit-oakland-raiders-wage-theft-unfair-employment-practices

http://www.nydailynews.com/sports/football/oakland-raiders-cheerleaders-sue-team-article-1.1588356