Raiders Cheerleaders Suing Team for Allegedly Being Paid $5 an Hour

Tim Keeney@@t_keenContributor IJanuary 22, 2014

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As if the Oakland Raiders needed any more bad press after their second consecutive 4-12 season, the team is now being sued by its cheerleaders. 

Updates From Thursday, Feb. 13

The Oakland Raiders aren't the only team facing a lawsuit from one of its cheerleaders. According to Eric Spillman of KTLA 5 News, now a Cincinnati Bengals is suing her team:

Alexa Brenneman says she spent more than three hundred hours working as a Ben-Gals cheerleader last year, and was paid a total of $855.

That translates to a pay rate of less than $2.85 an hour.  In Ohio, the minimum hourly wage is $7.85.

In her claim, Brenneman says the Bengals pay only $90 to each cheerleader per home game.   Yet they are required to attend 6-8 hours a week of practice, as well as ten charity functions a season.

And they “must pose for and promote a Ben-Gals calendar,” according to the complaint.

Brenneman says she and the other cheerleaders on her squad were unlawfully denied minimum wages in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act.


Updates From Friday, Dec. 31

According to TMZ, the entire Raiderettes team is under investigation by the U.S. Department of Labor after the former cheerleader's accusations:

The Oakland Raiders are now the target of a federal investigation into allegations the team pays its cheerleading squad members FAR LESS THAN MINIMUM WAGE.

The U.S. Dept. of Labor has confirmed it's looking into the team ... just days after a Raiderette named Lacy T. filed a lawsuit saying she gets paid less than $5-an-hour to shake her pom-poms.

A rep for the Labor Dept. says it's looking into the "entire cheerleading squad" ... and not just the claims made by Lacy.

In her lawsuit, Lacy claimed each Raiderette only makes $1,250 per season -- and job requires not only working all 10 home games, but attending rehearsals, charity events, fan events and posing for a swimsuit calendar.

Original Text

Current and former Raiderettes, as they are known, have filed a lawsuit claiming wage theft and other unfair employment practices, according to the San Jose Mercury News.

Perhaps the most frightening claim of all is that the team withholds pay from the cheerleaders until the end of the season, when they are paid their annual salary of $1,250. Taking into account practices, games and other events that the cheerleaders must attend, that comes out to a shockingly low $5 per hour. 

"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, via the Mercury News report.

But it doesn't stop there. 

The Raiderettes, according to Vinick, are fined for infractions such as showing up with the wrong pom-poms or forgetting to bring a yoga mat to practice. Lacy T., the lead plaintiff, also noted the cheerleaders must cover their own business expenses, including travel costs and photo shoots. 

Tony Avelar/Associated Press

Deadspin reviews all of the potential ways a cheerleader could be fined:

Forget to bring (including but not limited to) correct pom(s) or props to practice? $10.00 fine

Wear wrong designated workout wear and/or footwear for two-piece Wednesday rehearsals, special rehearsals and/or game day rehearsals? $10.00 fine

Not able to get bios in on time? $10.00 fine

Forget all or part of the official uniform, boots, and or poms for any event or game day? $10.00 fine (per item) and/or benched from game (-125.00)

Boots not clean and polished for game day? $10.00 fine

Failure to follow point #1 under Etiquette or Appearances (Game Day Ready)? $10.00 fine

FINES WILL CONTINUE TO DOUBLE IF INFRACTIONS CONTINUE. Example: a $10 fine will go up to $20 if you forget to wear the proper attire for a second time, etc.

As far as damages, the lawsuit seeks to repay "tens of thousands of dollars" to former cheerleaders and "thousands of dollars" to those who worked in 2013. 

This news comes on the heels of a petition submitted by NFL cheerleaders claiming they make as little as $150 per game while NFL mascots earn up to $65,000 a year—which would be an astounding 52 times as much as the Raiderettes claim to earn annually. 

"Being an NFL cheerleader isn’t just a hobby," states the petition, which has over 27,000 virtual signatures. "The selection process for the few slots on each squad is competitive, and each member is required to have highly specialized dance and athletic skills."

If these claims are true, they are quite shocking. 

Even if cheerleaders brought nothing to the game-day experience or didn't work off the field—neither of which are true—they would still deserve to be paid reasonably for their time, and it sounds as though that isn't remotely the case. 

According to the Mercury News report, the Raiders have no comment on the lawsuit at this time.