If your Google search for “California cheerleaders illegal” led you here, our apologies for your initial disappointment. But, please, stay a while, because the recently filed class action lawsuit by the Raiderette cheerleaders against the NFL’s Oakland Raiders is instructive as to the types of issues that can lead to wage-and-hour litigation. Do we have your rapt attention now? Good, let’s delve.
According to the complaint filed this week in Alameda County, California, the Raiders are in violation of numerous California Labor Code provisions dealing with employer wage-and-hour requirements. The problems appear to originate in the Raiderette Agreement that the football club requires its cheerleaders to sign. According to the agreement, which states that each Raiderette is an at-will employee of the Raiders, a cheerleader earns $125 for every home game. That money allegedly isn’t paid, however, until January when the Raiders’ season is over. This is potentially problematic for a number of reasons (not least of which is that the Raiders’ season is generally de facto over in November).
First, California law requires semimonthly payment of wages. An end-of-season lump-sum payment clearly is not compliant. Second, California’s minimum wage is $8.00/hour. If it is true, as alleged, that a Raiderette works for nine hours on game day, plus puts in nine hours of mandatory rehearsal time during the week, plus is required to attend promotional events during the work week, then it is likely, at least during some weeks, that $125 results in an hourly rate below the state’s minimum wage. The alleged nine-hour game day is also a potential problem because California law requires that an employer pay overtime for time worked over eight hours in a workday.
Furthermore, the complaint alleges that a Raiderette can be fined for any number of infractions including bringing incorrect pom-poms to a practice, forgetting a yoga mat, or turning in one’s bio after its due date. These fines not only reduce the total amount paid to a Raiderette (thus reducing the hourly rate), they may also violate California law prohibiting employer deductions from wages. Employers generally cannot require employees to contract away their wage-and-hour rights.
The Raiderette lawsuit has broader implications than just the current squad. The complaint seeks to represent a class of current and former Raiderettes going back at least three years. If successful, remedies could include not only back wages owed but also penalties and attorneys’ fees. Oh, and you can bet that the Chargers and Forty-Niners, and for that matter the Lakers, Clippers, Kings, and Warriors, are watching this case closely, as well as professional teams in other states with employee-friendly labor laws. Looking at you, Illinois! Bear down!
We have to admit, this was clever timing by the plaintiffs. We’re in that two-week football dead zone between the conference championships and the Super Bowl, so there was a football news vacuum just waiting to be filled. Also, Super Bowl XLVIII will be played outdoors, in New Jersey, in February. Not exactly ideal conditions for maximum cheer-babeness. This lawsuit may end up being the hottest cheerleader-related item you see between now and the end of the season. Hip hip hooray.