Why New York Jets must pay cheerleaders $324,000

The Jets have agreed to settle a class-action lawsuit by its cheerleaders for low pay. The 52 women said they were paid $150 per game and issued uniforms.

AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
New York Jets cheerleaders perform during the first half of an NFL football game between the New York Jets and the New England Patriots Sunday, Dec. 27, 2015, in East Rutherford, N.J. The Jets cheerleaders just won a legal decision for $324,000 in back pay.

The New York Jets have agreed to pay nearly $324,000 to settle a class-action lawsuit filed by cheerleaders over wages.

The suit was filed in Bergen County, New Jersey, where the NFL team plays.

The 52 women said they were paid $150 per game and issued uniforms. But they said they were not paid for practices and other work and were forced to pay for their makeup, hair care and transportation.

The Record newspaper reports the women will receive $2,559 to $5,913 each, depending upon whether they worked one or both of the 2012 and 2013 seasons and whether they took part in calendar photo shoots.

The team denied the claims but earlier said it agreed to settle to avoid the expense and distraction of litigation.

The Jets' cheerleaders aren't the only NFL cheerleaders challenging for better pay. In 2014, five cheerleaders for the Buffalo Bills sued too, after estimating that some made $105 for the entire season, the Associated Press reported.

The Bills' cheerleaders aren't paid for games or practices and have to make 20-35 appearances, most of which are unpaid, at community and charity events each season, the lawsuit said. On top of that, they have to pay $650 for their uniforms and are not reimbursed for travel or other expenses, the cheerleaders said.

The time and expense, as well as rules governing their personal lives, far exceeded what they signed on for, the women said.

The case against the Bills says its cheerleaders, the Buffalo Jills, are wrongly classified as independent contractors and are subjected to policies that violate the state's $8 per hour minimum wage law and other workplace rules

In September, a New York state legislator proposed the Cheerleaders' Fair Pay Act, which would would force team owners to treat squads like the Jills as employees rather than independent contractors, reported

The change would mean teams like the Buffalo Bills would have to comply with much stricter New York labor laws when it comes to cheerleaders' wages and workplace protections.

At the very least, it would mean that squads like the Jills would make the state's current minimum wage of $8.75 an hour, according to state Sen. Diane Savino. It also means the cheerleaders could organize as a union, she said.

"We're not going to stand by and see women exploited," Savino, D-Staten Island, said this morning on WCNY's "The Capitol Pressroom" with Susan Arbetter. "These girls are talented. They are not just pretty....They are athletes as much as the players on the field."

... Savino said the Buffalo organization has a responsibility to treat its workers better – especially as state taxpayers just last year paid for $90 million in improvements at Ralph Wilson Stadium.

"The state of New York has invested a lot of money in the Buffalo Bills," she said. "They owe something back to the women of New York."

The Oakland Raiders and Cincinnati Bengals also have pending cheerleader wage legal battles.

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