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Football may be over but the Oakland Raiders Cheerleaders’ Season is Just Getting Started

While the life of a NFL cheerleader sparks one’s imagination of glamour, television exposure and desirability, a closer look reveals that this lifestyle is not quite so glamorous.  Lacy T, 27, signed on as a “Raiderette” in April of 2013.  The opportunity to dance for an NFL team “was a huge dream for me,” she told Now, the U.S. Department of Labor is investigating the Oakland Raiders’ treatment of its cheerleaders after Lacy filed suit against the Oakland Raiders.

The Raiders are being sued both by former and current cheerleaders for wage theft and unfair employment practices.  Specifically, the Raiderettes are alleging that the organization withheld their pay until the end of the season, made them pay for their own business expenses, and did not pay them for all their hours worked. According to the filing, when totaling their entire workload of rehearsals, appearances, and performing at team events, the Raiderettes are making less than $5 an hour, well below the federal governments $7.25 hourly minimum wage and the state’s $8 minimum wage.  As to the unfair business practice allegation, the cheerleaders allege that the Raiders are illegally requiring them to pay for expenses such as travel costs and team-required cosmetics.  These expenses, the complaint alleges, by law must be paid for by the Raiders.

“It’s as if the Raiders’ owners believe that the laws that protect all workers in California just don’t apply to them,” attorney Sharon Vinick said, according to the San Jose Mercury News.

The labor department has the ability to assess significant penalties against employers for violating wage laws and other labor laws.  As such, employers facing these types of Labor Department investigations have a strong incentive to settle for back-wage payment due to the risk of having to pay additional liquidated damages.  In particular, well known and media attentive employers such as the Raiders, have more incentive to settle in order to avoid negative media attention.  For example, while not involving a NFL team, in August 2013 the San Francisco Giants received bad press when they paid $544,000 in back wages to 74 employees after an investigation by the Labor Department.

On a go forward basis the Raiders, along with other NFL teams, will need to keep a better track of the time and expenses incurred by their cheerleaders.  Indeed, according to the Raiderettes’ lawyers, the damages in their case could be as much as $10,000 to $20,000 per cheerleader.  This could equate to a total of 1.6 million dollars owed by the Raiders (not including monetary penalties) in light of the fact that the Raiders employ 40 cheerleaders a year and the length of the lawsuit spans over four years.   We will keep you apprised of any developments in this lawsuit.


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