Oakland Raiders cheerleaders (photo: Jose Sanchez, Associated Press)
Contending their employer pays them less than the California minimum wage, the Oakland Raiders cheerleaders filed suit in California against their employer. And the U.S. Department of Labor even jumped into the fight. But the agency then said the Raiders are a “seasonal” business, which means it operates no more than seven months a year. That status gives the team an exemption from minimum wage and overtime regulations.
The cheerleaders are not paid hourly, but an annual sum of $1,250. The Raiderettes determined that the hours they are required to work before, during and after games, including special events and team promotions, results in their wages averaging out to $5 an hour, $3 an hour less than what’s required under California law.
Also, the money they receive is not paid out every two weeks, they said. Instead, it is paid in one lump sum after the conclusion of the football season.
As in many low-paying jobs, the employees are at constant risk of diminishment.
The NFL makes about $10 billion a year. Its commissioner, Roger Goodell, makes $44 million annually. Even team mascots are paid better—much better—than cheerleaders: $23,000 a year. And the cheerleaders are required to pay for their travel and team-mandated cosmetics.
The Raiderettes are also subject to fines for various infractions, such as wearing unapproved underwear or having the wrong shade of fake tan.
Their legal fight now heads to the courts—that is, if they can get around the clause in the contracts they signed stating any complaints must be handled through arbitration. Who’s the arbitrator? Why, Goodell, of course.