The Oakland Raiders have agreed to pay $1.25 million to settle a lawsuit filed by cheerleaders who accused the team of wage theft and violation of California labor laws.
The Raiders and Raiderettes announced the settlement Thursday in an effort to settle the first of four wage-theft lawsuits filed by NFL cheerleaders in the past year out of court.
“The settlement will resolve disputed claims regarding payment for hours worked, including practices and appearances, expenses, interest, and penalties under the California Labor Code,” the statement reads.
Raiderettes Lacy T. and Sarah G. filed the suit in January, charging that the team had paid each cheerleader just $1,250 for 350 hours of work each year and withheld all compensation until the end of the season. (The Oakland team encourages cheerleaders to keep their last names private.)
“I feel a sense of satisfaction knowing this long journey is over and will end happily for 90 women,” Lacy told the Los Angeles Times after announcement of the settlement.
“I know we’re just cheerleaders to people, but we’re low-wage workers working for a billion-dollar industry.”
While the team has not officially admitted to any wrongdoing, it did draw up a new contract for cheerleaders this July that nearly tripled the cheerleaders' annual wages.
Under the old payment scheme, cheerleaders received just $125 per game and were not compensated for rehearsals or mandatory charity appearances. If they missed or arrived late for rehearsals, or showed up with the wrong colored nail polish or type of pom poms, those wages could be docked, according to The Times.
The new contract affords the cheerleaders a rate of $9 an hour – to be paid every two weeks rather than in one lump sum – and promises reimbursement for business expenses and mileage that the dancers previously had to cover themselves.
Lacy’s lawsuit has sparked a flurry of similar complaints from cheerleaders around the country.
In April, five former Buffalo Jills cheerleaders filed a suit against the Buffalo Bills for failure to pay minimum wage and unfair treatment during the Jills’ annual golf tournament, where the cheerleaders were required to participate in a dunk tank while wearing bikinis.
“I signed up to be a cheerleader, not whatever you want to call that,” Maria P., a former Jill and one of the five plaintiffs told the Buffalo News. “The treatment we endured was unacceptable, and the public needs to know and understand the situation we were in.”
The Bills petitioned to have the lawsuit dismissed, but a judge ruled on Aug. 29, that the case could go forward. The team has suspended the cheerleading squad for the upcoming season.
In May, a former cheerleader for the New York Jets accused the team of underpaying members of the Flight Crew cheerleading team.
“The Jets, while paying millions of dollars to its male athletes for a single season of work, have historically and currently pay less than minimum wage to its cheerleading staff,” the lawsuit said, according to the New York Daily News.
Former Flight Crew member Krystal C. said that her pay amounted to just $1.50 an hour after out-of-pocket expenses.
“We didn’t complain because we were always told how lucky we were to be able to perform, and we were lucky,” Krystal told the Daily News. “But I didn’t think it was right to pay us so little when we all worked so hard and we were 100% there all the time.”
In February, former Ben-Gal cheerleader Alexa Brenneman filed a similar suit charging that the Cincinnati Bengals paid her less than $2.85 per hour, a full $5 below the Ohio minimum wage of $7.85 per hour.
Ms. Brennaman’s suit holds up the Seattle Seahawks as a model team that fairly pay their cheerleaders an hourly wage, including overtime, CBS Sports reported.
Material from Reuters was used in this report.