Former cheerleaders for the National Football League (NFL) have filed multiple lawsuits in New Jersey, New York, California, Ohio, and Florida for alleged violations of state and federal wage laws. Allegations include unpaid work, misclassification as independent contractors, and minimum wage violations. A report by Amanda Hess in Slate notes that cheerleading for professional football began as a volunteer activity, at a time when no one made much money from the sport. While players and coaches have significantly increased their income, cheerleaders are still paid almost as though they were volunteers.
A former Oakland Raiders cheerleader, who goes by Lacy T. in her complaint, filed the first lawsuit, Lacy T. v. The Oakland Raiders, et al, No. RG14710815, complaint (Cal. Super. Ct., Alameda Co., Jan. 22, 2014). She worked as a “Raiderette” during the 2013-14 football season and allegedly received $125 per game no matter how many hours she worked. She also claimed that cheerleaders do not receive any pay until the end of the Raiders’ season in January. Her lawsuit identified a class of cheerleaders employed as Raiderettes from January 22, 2010 to the present, and asserted causes of action for violations of minimum wage, overtime, and other provisions of the California Labor Code.
The U.S. Department of Labor found in March that the team is a “seasonal” employer, and therefore is exempt from federal minimum wage laws. California labor law, however, does not have this exemption. A second lawsuit against the team, Caitlin Y., et al v. The National Football League, et al, No. RG14727746, complaint (Cal. Super. Ct., Alameda Co., Jun. 4, 2014), makes similar wage-related allegations, but also claims sexual harassment and other unlawful practices.
A putative class action lawsuit in New Jersey, Krystal C. v. New York Jets LLC, complaint (N.J. Super. Ct., Bergen Co., May 6, 2014), asserts claims under the New Jersey Wage and Hour Law. N.J.S.A. § 34:11-56a et seq. The plaintiff was one of about 40 members of the team’s “Flight Crew” from June 2012 to December 2013. She claims that cheerleaders received $150 per game and $100 for special events, but that they were not paid for time spent practicing or traveling, nor for mandatory time spent on uniform maintenance. Based on her actual hours, the plaintiff in the Jets case claims that she was paid $3.77 per hour, well below the state’s minimum wage. Failure to compensate workers for time spent changing into or out of uniform, or time spent maintaining a required uniform, is a common violation of minimum wage statutes.
A lawsuit against the Buffalo Bills, Jaclyn S., et al v. Buffalo Bills, Inc., et al, No. 804088/2014, complaint (N.Y. Sup. Ct., Erie Co., Apr. 22, 2014), claims that cheerleaders were required to submit to a weekly “jiggle test,” and that they could face monetary penalties for failing. Two federal lawsuits allege minimum wage violations under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), 29 U.S.C. § 206. The plaintiff in Brenneman v. Cincinnati Bengals, Inc., complaint (S.D. Oh., Feb. 11, 2014), claims that her hourly wage equaled approximately $2.85, while the plaintiff in Pierre-Val v. Buccaneers Ltd. P’ship, No. 8:14-cv-001182, complaint (M.D. Fla., May 19, 2014), claimed she received about $2.00 an hour.
If you need to speak to an employment attorney in New Jersey or New York regarding wage law violations or other employment law matters, please contact the Resnick Law Group today at 973-781-1204 or (646) 867-7997.
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FLSA Protections May Be Available to Undocumented Immigrant Employees in New Jersey, The New Jersey Employment Law Firm Blog, February 21, 2014