Two Oakland Raiders cheerleaders who filed a class action lawsuit against the NFL franchise for violations of the federal and California minimum wage requirements recently settled their case with the Raiders. The team will pay out a total of $1.25 million to 90 women who cheered for the team between 2010 and 2013. In addition future Raider cheerleaders will be paid minimum wage for all hours worked, receive checks every two weeks, and be reimbursed for business expenses they incur in the course of the job.
Cheerleaders for the Cincinnati Bengals, Buffalo Bills, New York Jets, and Tamp Bay Buccaneers all filed similar lawsuits after the Raiders lawsuits were announced.
NFL cheerleaders, until these suits were filed, were commonly paid way less than minimum wage. For example Bengals cheerleaders alleged they were paid only $2.85 an hour for their work dancing at games. Many cheerleaders also alleged that they were required to work many hours of completely unpaid labor.
The Buffalo Bills cheerleaders, the “Buffalo Jills” claim they were required to perform unpaid work for the team for about 20 hours a week. Unpaid activities included: submitting to a weekly “jiggle test” (where cheer coaches “scrutinized the women’s stomach, arms, legs, hips, and butt while she does jumping jacks”); parading around casinos in bikinis “for the gratification of the predominantly male crowd”; and offering themselves up as prizes at a golf tournament, where they were required to sit on men’s laps on the golf carts, submerge themselves in a dunk tank, and perform backflips for tips (which they did not receive).
There is a common thread running through these cheerleader minimum wage cases and the unpaid internship minimum wage cases I discussed in previous posts. For-profit employers try to get people to work for them for free. Instead of money these unscrupulous businesses offer “exposure” or “experience” to get people to volunteer for their money making enterprise. In the vast, vast majority of cases a person can not agree to work for free for a for-profit business. Experience and exposure are valued by the law at zero dollars an hour.
It seems like there is a greater awareness among people that one must be paid minimum wage for all hours worked even if the employee “agreed” to not be paid. If you are working for a company that is a for-profit then they need to pay you! If you are a worker in Atlanta or Georgia more generally contact employment law attorney Ben Kandy.