Two cheerleaders who sued the NFL’s Oakland Raiders alleging that the team failed to pay them the legal minimum wage and violated other state employment laws have settled their claim for $1.25 million, the Los Angeles Times reported Thursday.
The Raiders will pay back wages to as many as 90 former cheerleaders under the settlement, which still needs approval from a judge. Cheerleaders who were on the team at any point between 2010 and 2013 will receive $2,500 in back wages for the 2013 season and $6,000 for each of the other three, according to the Times.
The cheerleaders who sued the team in January alleged that the Raiders violated multiple California employment laws by withholding salaries until after the end of the NFL season, forcing them to pay for other employment-related expenses, and paying them less than the state’s mandated minimum wage. The suit said the team paid cheerleaders a salary of $1,250, equivalent to less than $5 per hour. The California minimum wage rose to $9 per hour on July 1 and was $8 per hour when the suit was filed.
The Raiders announced before the 2014–2015 season that they will now pay cheerleaders the minimum wage and will also bring their practices into line with state law. The team will pay cheerleaders bi-weekly instead of at the end of the season and will pay overtime for celebrity appearances and other events that were previously uncompensated.
The Buffalo Bills, New York Jets, Cincinnati Bengals, and Tampa Bay Buccaneers are also facing wage theft lawsuits from former cheerleaders, and wage theft remains an issue throughout the sports world. Major League Baseball’s San Francisco Giants and Miami Marlins have both settled employment lawsuits with former interns and clubhouse and front office employees. The Giants settled a second claim in May, while the Baltimore Orioles and Oakland Athletics are now under investigation. Baseball is also facing a lawsuit from former minor league players who say they were paid less than the minimum wage during their careers, and in his role as the league’s chief operating officer, incoming MLB commissioner Rob Manfred has described wage theft as “endemic to our industry.”
The settlement came on the same day that fast food workers were arrested while protesting for higher wages in cities across the country, and wage theft, to borrow Manfred’s words, is also endemic to many other low-wage industries. Recent reports and studies suggest the problem has gotten worse. Wage theft claims under the Fair Labor and Standards Act rose 400 percent between 2000 and 2011, while a report from 2009 found that 68 percent of low-wage workers will experience wage theft at some point in their working lives. The Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division, responsible for investigating wage claims, has “uncovered nearly $1 billion in illegally unpaid wages since 2010,” according to the New York Times, while the state of New York alone — where the Bills cheerleaders sued — has found $17 million in unpaid wages since 2011.