More NFL cheerleaders are suing over scant pay and unfair working conditions, only this time they’re tackling the league itself.
The National Football League is named as a co-defendant in a lawsuit filed Tuesday on behalf of two anonymous Oakland Raiders cheerleaders. “Caitlin Y” and “Jenny C” say they were denied fair wages, overtime pay and reimbursement of business expenses while being subjected to “degrading comments” and “grueling working conditions” that included having their bodies scrutinized each week for the slightest trace of body fat. Those who didn’t meet the stringent weight and fitness requirements were benched that week with no pay, according to the lawsuit. The women also say they were placed in numerous humiliating situations, including being forced to change into uniform in public and make promotional appearances in which they were “groped by inebriated men.”
Filed in Superior Court in Alameda, California, the class-action lawsuit also names the Oakland Raiders LLC. It is the latest of several cheerleader wage lawsuits filed since January, when an anonymous Raiderette sued the team claiming she was paid less than $5 an hour when rehearsals and mandatory events were factored in. In the months to follow, similar lawsuits were filed by cheerleaders for the Cincinnati Bengals, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the New York Jets, but none of those suits named the NFL, the nonprofit trade association that oversees the 32 teams in professional American football.
NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy was quick to distance the league from the lawsuit, saying it's not involved with the cheerleader operations of individual teams. “The clubs determine if they want to have cheerleaders and their role,” he told International Business Times in an email. “The league has no role in their selection, duties, hours or wages.”
Oakland Raiderettes are paid only about $125 a game. The U.S. Department of Labor requires employers to comply with federal and state minimum wages, although some exemptions are extended to seasonal operations, which the Raiders were determined to be in a federal investigation in March. But that determination doesn't shield the Raiders or other teams from wage lawsuits, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.
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Supporters of the burgeoning cheerleader revolt say professional NFL teams -- part of a $9 billion industry -- can more than afford to pay a living wage to the hard-working women on the sidelines. “I loved being a Raiderette and being able to cheerlead for my favorite NFL team, the Oakland Raiders,” Caitlin Y said. “[B]ut the conditions I had to endure were not fair, nor were they legal.”
A spokeswoman for the Raiders didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.
Read the full legal complaint here.