A member of the Oakland Raiderettes, which is the cheerleading squad for the Oakland Raiders, has filed a lawsuit against the Oakland Raiders, alleging that the Raiders failed to pay their cheerleaders minimum wage, withheld pay until the end of the season, didn’t provide lunch breaks, imposed fines on cheerleaders for infractions, and required cheerleaders to cover their own business expenses. According to the lawsuit, all of these actions are in violation of the California Labor Code.
The Raiderette who filed the suit in Alameda County Superior Court alleges that her contract required her to attend practices three times a week, make dozens of public appearances, attend photo shoots and fittings, perform charity appearances, as well as cheering for nine hour shifts at all of the Raiders Home games. In exchange, the Raiderette received $1,250 at the end of the season. The Raiderette was not allowed to use any of the images taken in connection with her appearances. Raiderettes are also required to uphold standards of appearance, including continual French manicures and pedicures, expensive hairstyles, false eyelashes, tanning, and a constant maintenance of a certain weight.
In addition to the long hours, meager pay, and list of requirements that had to be met, the Raiderettes were subjected to potential fines for a variety of offenses, including forgetting pompoms and gaining weight. According to the employment handbook, it was possible that a Raiderette would receive no salary at the end of the season. Although this deal may not sound appealing to most, Raiderettes were warned that there were hundreds of eager replacements waiting to take a spot on the Raiderette’s squad if one cheerleader should quit or be eliminated.
Many former professional cheerleaders say that the perks of the job are well beyond pay. Raiderettes and other professional cheerleaders are able to leverage their position on the squad to later work as models, reality TV stars, fitness instructors, and in similar positions. However, other former cheerleaders say the position is more trouble than it is worth.
The Raiderette filed a class action suit on behalf of Raiderettes who cheered from 2010 to 2013. The reactions to the lawsuit among Raiderettes were mixed, according to the plaintiff. Some have shunned her, or feared that professional cheerleading could be put out of business, because most cheerleading squads are expendable to the NFL. Others have supported her and joined the lawsuit. Neither the Oakland Raiders nor the NFL has publicly commented. Shortly after the lawsuit was filed, the U.S. Department of Labor opened an investigation into the Raiders’ treatment of its cheerleaders. However, it determined that under federal law, cheerleading is a seasonal operation and is therefore exempt from minimum wage laws. State laws are often more stringent than federal labor laws, and another cheerleader in another state has since filed a similar class-action suit, claiming that she is only paid $2.85 per hour.
The Raiders are asking the court to force private arbitration within the NFL, which is a condition contained in the Raiderettes contract. However, in California often forced arbitration clauses are struck down.
Under California law, employees must be paid a minimum wage, unless they are exempt from minimum wage requirements. If a company fails to pay minimum wage, it can be held liable for damages, including past unpaid wages and benefits, attorney’s fees, court costs, and more. If you have been the victim of a violation of federal or California labor law, you have a right to legal compensation.
At Liberty Law, Micha Star Liberty believes that employers should be held liable for a failure to pay minimum wage or other violations. Call Liberty Law at 510-645-1000 or 415-896-1000 to learn more about your legal rights. Micha Star Liberty, gender discrimination attorney, works with clients throughout the Oakland area, including the San Francisco Bay area, Hayward, Tracy, Fairfield, and the surrounding cities. Call her to schedule your free consultation.