Previously on this blog, we discussed a lawsuit filed by several cheerleaders on the squad for the Oakland Raiders, known as the Raiderettes. That lawsuit alleges several different violations of state and federal labor laws, including withholding pay, failing to provide required break times, failing to pay the required minimum wage, and more. In recent weeks, cheerleaders from two more teams have come forward with lawsuits alleging similar violations.
Alexa Brenneman is a member of the cheerleading squad for the Cincinnati Bengals, called the Ben-Gals. Brenneman filed a lawsuit against the organization claiming that last season, she worked 300 hours and received only $855 in compensation. That pay rate comes to only $2.85 an hour, which is well below the Ohio state minimum wage of $7.95 per hour and the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour. Additionally, the Ben-Gals were expected to pay for their uniforms, grooming, and transportation with no reimbursement.
The Buffalo Jills
In addition to similar wage violations, the lawsuit filed by the cheerleaders for the Buffalo Bills states additional troubling allegations. The cheerleaders claim they are subjected to demeaning “jiggle tests” on a weekly basis so their boss can inspect their bodies and that they are required to attend events such as annual golf tournaments where they must politely endure groping. Additionally, the Jills state the team tells them how to talk (no discussions about politics, no expression of strong opinions, and no use of slang) and how to stay clean (specific instructions for deodorant use, hand-washing, shaving, and use of feminine products). The Jills state such instructions and expectations are demeaning and lead to an unfair work environment. All cheerleading activities have been suspended in the wake of the lawsuit.
Should wage laws apply?
One central theme of these lawsuits seems to be minimum wage violations. Teams have responded that the cheerleaders are independent contractors, therefore minimum wage requirements under state laws and the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) should not apply to them. However, the cheerleaders claim they should be classified as employees.
The main test for whether a worker should be considered an independent contractor or an employee involves many factors, however the main factor involves control. If the employer has a large amount of control over the worker, the worker should be considered an employee. NFL cheerleaders argue that the teams have significant control over the hours they rehearse, work out, and perform, over the public appearances they must make, over their uniforms, rehearsal clothes, overall appearance, conduct and more. Therefore, they argue they are, in fact, employees, and should be paid a minimum wage. The Ben-Gals lawsuit notes that the Seattle Seahawks already pay their cheerleaders the Washington state minimum wage of $9.32 per hour, plus additional wages for overtime hours.
No matter what type of job you have or the nature of your work, you should not have to simply accept labor law violations. If you believe your employer has violated California or federal labor laws, you should always consult with an experienced employment lawyer as soon as possible to discuss a potential case. Do not hesitate to call the Pershing Square Law Firm for help today.