NFL cheerleaders are one of the more recent groups to Bring It On! in the form of wage and hour litigation for the alleged failure of their teams to pay them a minimum wage.
In fact, to date, cheerleaders from five NFL teams have filed lawsuits against their respective teams alleging that they were not paid a legal wage for the time spent rehearsing, performing, and appearing at events. These spirit spreaders allege that they received little – and, in some cases, no – compensation for their heavy pompon lifting. The litigating squads include the Raiderettes, the Ben-Gals, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Cheerleaders (boooooorrrring), the Flight Crew, and the since-disbanded Buffalo Jills. (I’ve gotta be honest – I couldn’t keep a straight face while typing that last one. Seriously? The Buffalo Jills?)
I jest, but these FLSA and state law minimum wage cases haven’t been quite so funny to the employer-teams. And they’ve put a little more . . . wait for it . . . pep . . . in the step of the cheerleaders. You guessed it – these teams have collectively paid out more than two bits, four bits, six bits, a [million] dollar[s] to settle the claims.
And – shocker – California is now trying to legislate the issue. In the past month, a bill explicitly declaring cheerleaders to be “employees” entitled to payment of a minimum wage for all time spent on cheer-related activities has made it through two legislative committees and is on its way to the top of the law-making pyramid.
Rah! Rah! Sis Boom Bah! (Just wanted to get that in here somewhere.)
Now, I know that most employers don’t have cheerleaders on their pay rolls, as much as the occasional pep rally could help boost employee morale. But every savvy employer knows that the best DE – FENSE! is a good offense when it comes to warding off employment litigation.
Be Aggressive. B-E Aggressive. B-E A-G-G-R-E-S-S-I-V-E . . .
. . . and take a hard look at your “independent contractors” to ensure that you’re really dealing with a contractor and not an employee who should be paid a minimum wage.
If you don’t, you can be sure that your local plaintiff’s employment lawyer and the DOL are both on the lookout to find their next Cheerleader and will do it for you.
Now – Go! Fight! Win!
Carmon Harvey (Bio | LinkedIn | Twitter) is a shareholder resident in our Newark and Philadelphia office. Carmon has run more than 25 marathons, which allows her to indulge in her second and third most important hobbies: eating lots of delicious food and drinking great craft beers.