Cheerleader seeks fair treatment in California court

Frank S. Clowney III

For professional football fans in San Diego, the Chargers’ cheerleaders are a familiar sight on game days. Cheerleaders are among the most visible representatives of an incredibly successful entertainment enterprise, the National Football League. Yet recently, allegations have been made that one of the league’s franchises has violated wage and hour laws regarding payment and other practices involving the cheerleaders.

A member of the Oakland Raiders’ cheerleading squad filed a lawsuit in January. In the lawsuit the woman claims that the football team violated California labor laws in its treatment of the cheerleaders.

The suit contends that:

  • Once all hours worked by the cheerleaders through a football season are tallied, the pay rate issued by the Oakland Raiders does not meet legal minimum wage standards.
  • The cheerleaders are denied breaks for lunch.
  • The cheerleaders are expected to cover expenses related to things such as maintaining physical fitness.
  • The cheerleaders are subjected to financial penalties for a variety of uniform and personal appearance-related infractions.
  • The cheerleaders do not receive payment until after the football season ends.

Recently, the cheerleader, who was joined by another Raiderette in the lawsuit, suffered a setback as the U.S. Department of Labor classifies cheerleaders as seasonal workers who are therefore not covered by federal laws regarding minimum wage. The DOL cited that this is due to the fact that cheerleaders do not work through the entire year.

Currently, the Raiders have asked the court to permit arbitration as a means to resolve the case. The arbitration would be overseen by Roger Goodell, the commissioner of the NFL. It remains to be seen if either the court or the plaintiff will agree to the arbitration process.

Despite the DOL’s ruling, the plaintiff still may be able to win her case. California has its own set of laws pertaining to wage and hour issues. The specificity of these laws means that anyone seeking to resolve such issues with an employer in California could be greatly aided by the assistance of a lawyer who is well informed of all applicable regulations.

Source: Southern California Public Radio, “Why are most NFL cheerleaders paid less than minimum wage? (Poll),” Michelle Lanz, April 3, 2014