A second Oakland Raiders cheerleader joined a landmark wage theft lawsuit against the NFL team on Tuesday.
Like Lacy T., the lawsuit's lead plaintiff, Sarah G. said she was paid substantially less than the minimum wage. Raiderettes, according to a copy of their contract in the lawsuit, earn $125 per game, or $1,250 per season.
"I had no idea that the contract I had been signing for past four seasons was illegal until Lacy filed the lawsuit," Sarah said in an interview Tuesday. "I did my own research ... and then I decided to come out and side with Lacy. I felt fooled."
The Raiderettes are not paid for thrice-weekly practices, nor for the minimum of 10 corporate or charity events they are required to attend. They are not reimbursed for travel or other out-of-pocket expenses, and they are fined for a variety of infractions.
They are told they are lucky to have the job -- which is true. The competition is intense to land a spot on the 40-woman squad.
"We're told there are hundreds of other girls that we can easily replace you with and they keep putting it in your mind that it's a privilege, that you are lucky, that it's an honor," said Sarah. "We are lucky, but that doesn't give them the right to create a bogus contract."
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The lawsuit, filed Jan. 22 in Alameda County Superior Court as a class action, accuses the Raiders of failing to pay minimum wage and overtime, failing to pay their employees in a timely manner (the women receive only one paycheck per season), of making unlawful wage deductions (in the form of fines for tardiness or missed practices) and of illegally prohibiting the women from discussing their wages and working conditions.
Sarah G., 29, who was hoping to return to the squad for a final season, claims she spent $4,500, an average of $1,125 per season, in unreimbursed business expenses. She also said she was illegally fined by the team for turning in her biography about half an hour late last season.
"I had to hand 10 dollars in cash to the [Raiderettes] director," she told me Tuesday. She does not know what the director did with the money.
Lacy, 28, who earned $10 an hour for practices, appearances and games as a member of the Golden State Warriors' cheerleading squad before she became a Raiderette, said she didn't realize at first just how much work she would be doing for so little money. She estimated she put in between nine and 12 hours per week during the eight-month season, which starts in May.
"I was putting in all these hours and working so hard, and paying so much money out of pocket to keep up with mandatory things: hair, fingernails, tanning." Lacy told me last week. "There was no money coming in. It was all work, no pay. I guess you can say I was getting a little disenchanted."
On Friday, Oakland attorneys Leslie Levy and Sharon Vinick, who are representing the cheerleaders, were notified that the federal Department of Labor had also opened an investigation into the claims. They are hopeful that more women will join the lawsuit, which applies to anyone who was a Raiderette in the last four years.
The Raiders have refused to comment on the lawsuit.
But last week, a trio of former cheerleaders told Jim Moret of "Inside Edition" that the lawsuit painted an unfair picture of their working conditions.
"We feel that the suit does not represent us," said one.
"The main point," said another, "is that before we even tried out, the Raiders made it very clear that you needed to be a full-time employee somewhere else, a full-time student, or a full-time stay at home mom. It was always a part-time job, so the amount that you made was dependent on the amount that you could personally give."
I would not call this brainwashing. But it comes awfully close.
If the Raiders are violating state and federal labor laws, it doesn't really matter what they tell their cheerleaders, who are professional dancers and athletes in their own right.
The law exists to protect workers, whether workers want the protection or not.