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Cheerleaders' wage-theft lawsuit to cost Oakland Raiders $1.25 million

Cheerleaders who accused the Oakland Raiders of wage theft get a $1.25-million settlement from the team
Raiders cough up $1.25 million to 90 cheerleaders it ripped off. Now if they'd only kill that awful handbook.

Eight months after filing a groundbreaking, class-action wage theft lawsuit against the Oakland Raiders, two former Raiderettes cheerleaders have won a $1.25-million settlement from the team. The deal was announced today by attorneys for both sides, and is subject to court approval.

In January, the two former cheerleaders alleged that the Raiders broke a raft of state labor laws, including failing to pay minimum wage, withholding wages for months and refusing to reimburse cheerleaders for their business expenses.

In a sense, today's settlement, filed in Alameda Superior Court, is their second major victory.

The first came in July, when the Raiders tacitly admitted their sins and offered their new cheerleading squad a contract that nearly tripled their pay.

Instead of earning only $125 per game in a single paycheck delivered at the end of the season, Raiderettes will earn $9 an hour from now on, plus overtime, for the estimated 350 hours each cheerleader puts in each year, including rehearsals, practices and mandatory community and charity appearances. Their annual compensation will rise from about $1,250 to about $3,200.

From now on, Raiderettes will also be reimbursed for business expenses and mileage, which they had to cover themselves before. They will also receive paychecks every two weeks, per state law, rather than one lump sum at season’s end.

And the team will no longer illegally deduct wages for minor rules infractions like showing up a few minute late to rehearsals, wearing the wrong color nail polish or failing to bring the correct pom poms to practice. Cheerleaders will also be entitled to a 10-minute break during games.

As for the second victory, that came after a day of mediation last month in San Francisco. Attorneys for the Raiderettes and the team agreed to a complex settlement formula that will cover any cheerleader who has worked for the team since the 2010-11 season. Cheerleaders will receive $2,500 in back pay and penalties for the 2013-14 season, plus $6,000 in back pay and penalties for each of the three seasons before that. (Why only $2,500 for last season? Because after the wage theft lawsuit was filed, the Raiders mysteriously increased cheerleaders' pay to approximately minimum wage.)

About 90 women, some of whom were angry that the case had been filed because it embarrassed the team, will receive checks. Lacy T., the original plaintiff, and Sarah G., who joined the case a short time later, will receive an additional $10,000 for bringing the lawsuit. To protect themselves from overzealous fans, cheerleaders traditionally do not use their last names, and the court has not required them to do so.

“I’m so excited, honestly,” said Lacy, 28, who spent only one season as an NFL cheerleader and who was shunned by many of her squadmates after filing the lawsuit. “I feel a sense of satisfaction knowing this long journey is over and will end happily for 90 women. I feel very proud about that. I know we’re just cheerleaders to people, but we’re low-wage workers working for a billion-dollar industry. It shows everyone that one little girl who stood up and said, ‘This is not right,’ changed the way the Raiders do business.”

Oakland attorneys Leslie Levy and Sharon Vinick, who represented the cheerleaders, are to receive about a third of the settlement.

“I think it’s a completely appropriate settlement,” said Levy. “It says this is hard work, and not play. It doesn’t reflect the hourly wage that they really should get paid, but it’s a statement that these teams are not above the law.”

It’s unclear what effect the Raiders settlement will have on other wage-theft lawsuits by NFL cheerleaders. Similar cases are pending against the Cincinnatti Bengals, the Buffalo Bills, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the New York Jets. There is also a second lawsuit pending against the Raiders, which, unlike the first, included the NFL as a defendant. In a recent court document, the NFL vigorously disputed the assertion that is involved in the relationship between teams and cheerleaders.

“If there are any teams out there that have not changed their policy,” said Levy, “I hope they realize it’s going to be far less expensive for them to do that than to continue with the wage theft.”

Now if Raiders would only throw out that horrible Raiderettes handbook ….

Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times
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