CINCINNATI — In late October, the Cincinnati Bengals settled a class action wage suit brought by a cheerleader who claimed that the team violated the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) by failing to pay her and other cheerleaders at least the minimum wage. The settlement covers cheerleaders employed by the Bengals between February 22, 2011 and January 31, 2014, who will receive $2,500 for each season they worked during this period. The lead plaintiff will receive $5,000. In total, the settlement will amount to $255,000.
Minimum Wage Allegations
The cheerleaders allege that they were only paid $90 for each home game performance and were not paid for time spent at mandatory practices, charity functions, or calendar photo shoots and promotional performances. Additionally, the suit claims that the Bengals restricted its cheerleaders from taking other jobs as a condition of their employment, which includes prohibiting them from dancing or performing for another group. The lead plaintiff alleged that, in February 2014, she spent nearly 300 hours working for the team as a cheerleader but was paid a total of just $855 – equal to $2.85 per hour.
Final approval of the settlement agreement is subject to a class action fairness hearing on December 3. The Bengals are able to cancel the settlement if cheerleaders with a combination of six years or more opt out. For example, if two cheerleaders who each worked three seasons refuse to take part in the settlement, or six who cheered in one year, the Bengals would have the right to withdraw.
Other Cheerleader Wage Suits
The Bengals suit is one of many wage suits that have been filed in the last two years featuring the same or similar allegations of FLSA violations. The Oakland Raiders, Buffalo Bills, New York Jets, and Tampa Bay Buccaneers have all been accused of wage theft. An earlier suit against the raiders resulted in a Settlement for $1.25 million covering 90 cheerleaders. Earlier this year, the California governor signed legislation recognizing professional cheerleaders in the state as employees entitled to minimum wage, overtime, and other labor protections.
No industry is immune from wage theft. Employers often try to skirt their wage obligations by misclassifying employees. You should call (855) 754-2795 or complete the Free Unpaid Overtime Case Review form on the top right of this page if you believe your wage rights have been violated or if you feel you are misclassified as a non-employee. Our top-rated team of wage lawyers will evaluate your situation to determine your best course of action. We will also determine if it is in your best interest to file a lawsuit against your employer. There are strict time limitations for filing, so it is important that you call our experienced attorneys today.