Fall is here, bringing cooler temperatures and the start of football season. Cheerleaders, who traditionally yell for their teams on the sidelines, have now started to speak out against their employers for committing illegal wage theft in courtrooms around the country. Last week, the Oakland Raiders agreed to pay a $1.25 million settlement in a class-action lawsuit filed in January by former Raiderettes. The lawsuit alleged that the Raiders broke various California state labor laws, including failing to pay minimum wage, failing to pay for all hours worked, withholding wages until the end of the season, and refusing to reimburse cheerleaders for business expenses. Similar wage-theft lawsuits are currently pending against the Cincinnati Bengals, the Buffalo Bills, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and the New York Jets.
Raiderettes previously received $125 per game at the end of the season. One cheerleader estimated that she earned less than $5 an hour in pay for hours spent working at games and practices. The cheerleaders also received fines reduced from their wages for things like bringing the wrong pom-poms to practice or wearing the wrong color nail polish. Raiderettes will now earn at least $9 an hour and will receive overtime pay, and the team will pay them every two weeks instead of just once a season. The settlement also includes back pay awards. The Raiders will pay cheerleaders $6,400 for each season they worked between 2010 and 2013. Cheerleaders who worked in the 2013-2014 season will receive about $2,500 each because the Raiders began to pay minimum wage and overtime in 2013 around the time the suit was filed.
The settlement sends an important message to employers who commit wage theft when they refuse to comply with federal and state labor laws. “I know we are just cheerleaders to people, but we're low-wage workers working for a billion-dollar industry,” said Lacy T., the lead plaintiff in the lawsuit. The cheerleaders' attorney noted she hoped teams would take note that it is far less expensive to be in compliance with the law than to disregard it.