Oakland Raiders cheerleaders (photo: Jose Sanchez, Associated Press)
The Oakland Raiders football team, facing a revolt and lawsuits by its cheerleaders, quietly indicated they would be paying the girls minimum wage—$9 an hour—during the coming season. That would be about 80% more than the $5 an hour the Raiderettes claim they are paid by the billion-dollar business.
The team largesse was first noted in public by NBC Bay Area, which reported that two cheerleaders and two attorneys noticed the higher wage in an audition posting on the Raiders website.
The cheerleaders filed a class-action lawsuit in January, complaining that the $1,250 they are paid for working before, during and after games, including special events and team promotions, was nowhere near the minimum wage.
They receive their pay in a lump sum at the end of the season. They are subject to being docked for a variety of offenses, including wearing unapproved underwear or displaying the wrong shade of fake tan.
The U.S. Department of Labor sided early with the Raiders. It said the team was not obligated to pay a minimum wage or overtime because it was a “seasonal” business. The league of seasonal businesses makes around $10 billion a year.
The Raiders argued that they couldn’t be sued by the Raiderettes because their contracts obligated them to submit their claims to binding arbitration with the NFL commissioner as the arbitrator.
The team made a motion in Alameda County Superior Court in April to that effect, citing a broad array of judicial precedence that favored employer-dominated arbitration in general over labor negotiations or judicial determinations. Raider lawyers also noted that the courts had backed them up when they used arbitration against other team employees.
A compromise was reached in June. The two sides agreed to arbitration with an impartial arbitrator, but the lawsuit may ultimately proceed.
The same week the arbitration deal was reached, a group of former Raiderettes filed their own class-action lawsuit (pdf) against the team, making many of the same claims as the first suit, but also including the NFL as a defendant.
Similar lawsuits have been filed by cheerleaders against the Buffalo Bills, Cincinnati Bengals, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and New York Jets.