Gimme an R! Gimme an A! ... Actually, just give me my paycheck.
April 3, 2014 2:42 AM   Subscribe

The salon visits, the makeup, the eyelashes, the tights were almost exclusively paid out of her own pocket. The finishing touch of the Raiderettes' onboarding process was a contract requiring Lacy to attend thrice-weekly practices, dozens of public appearances, photo shoots, fittings and nine-hour shifts at Raiders home games, all in return for a lump sum of $1,250 at the conclusion of the season.
A Raiderette has filed a class action suit alleging that the Raiders' practices violate the California Labor Code.
posted by rewil (59 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite

 
"Onboarding"

( ╯︵ ╯)
posted by Pre-Taped Call In Show at 3:16 AM on April 3, 2014 [4 favorites]


Whenever people grumble about lawyers, stories like this are why I get upset.
posted by Pope Guilty at 4:12 AM on April 3, 2014 [11 favorites]


"Like hundreds of women who have cheered for the Raiders since 1961, Lacy signed the contract."

(Note, this is not an opinion, on my part, regarding the rightness/wrongness of encouraging people to work for these terms.)

My question is, if she knew the terms, didn't like them (to the point of showing them to an attorney), why did she accept the position? It smacks a bit like ambulance chasing or entrapment, or something..... She made an informed choice, she signed the contract....
posted by HuronBob at 4:15 AM on April 3, 2014 [2 favorites]


My question is, if she knew the terms, didn't like them (to the point of showing them to an attorney), why did she accept the position? It smacks a bit like ambulance chasing or entrapment, or something..... She made an informed choice, she signed the contract....

According to the article, she didn't understand that the terms of the contract were (she and her lawyer allege) illegal. The vast majority of people either do not understand their rights as employees or do not expect those rights to be enforced.

Also, should the contract be found to be illegal (and based on that article, this looks fairly open and shut on that score), well... I dunno what more I have to say. It's an exploitative system and those operating it for their own benefit at the expense of others should be punished and their victims compensated.
posted by Pope Guilty at 4:18 AM on April 3, 2014 [65 favorites]


At least the class will be fairly small and that the plaintiffs would stand a chance of walking away with some real money. That's better than your consumer class action where you get a check for fifty cents and the attorneys pocket millions in fees.
posted by dr_dank at 4:26 AM on April 3, 2014 [3 favorites]


The thing about employment regulations like the minimum wage is that they still apply regardless of whether the employee wants them to. The whole reason they exist is because the employee has less power in this than the employer does. None of these girls are in a position to make a counteroffer of a living wage and expense reimbursement and have the team actually entertain it, as far as I can tell. The actual problem is how little is done about enforcement when the employees don't go to these lengths.
posted by Sequence at 4:37 AM on April 3, 2014 [57 favorites]


Isn't entrapment considered more like inducing someone to do something they would not normally do? But this was the same contract drawn up by management that hundreds of other women had signed, and if she had declined it would have been offered to someone else. Isn't it fair to say she wanted to do he job - and do it well - but also wanted to be paid a fair wage for her work?
posted by saucysault at 4:38 AM on April 3, 2014 [2 favorites]


Thanks, all.. I appreciate the fresh perspective on this.... You're right...illegal is illegal, it doesn't matter if there was an agreement or not. And, I agree, the word "entrapment" doesn't fit, I just couldn't come up with a better word that fit my thought on that...
posted by HuronBob at 4:43 AM on April 3, 2014 [8 favorites]


Onboarding, because hiring denotes employment, I'm guessing.
posted by Ham Snadwich at 4:46 AM on April 3, 2014 [2 favorites]


The thing about employment regulations like the minimum wage is that they still apply regardless of whether the employee wants them to.

Yeah, see also that shitbag in Wisconsin trying to repeal a law that says employees must have one day off out of every seven. If that goes away and your boss says you work seven days a week, guess what?
posted by Pope Guilty at 5:01 AM on April 3, 2014 [23 favorites]


The actual problem is how little is done about enforcement when the employees don't go to these lengths.

This is very true. A former coworker of mine contacted the state DOL to complain about how our company rounds off the time clock to our exact scheduled start times, such that it only benefits the company. The DOL told her that they only investigate complaints about minimum wage, and she would have to file a lawsuit.

When employers can screw you and the DOL doesn't care, lawyers are what's left.
posted by Fleebnork at 5:14 AM on April 3, 2014 [23 favorites]


If that goes away and your boss says you work seven days a week, guess what?

I've had bosses tell me that many times and I had to work seven days a week or risk firing.
posted by octothorpe at 5:17 AM on April 3, 2014


Raiders? More like the Stealers.
posted by inturnaround at 5:24 AM on April 3, 2014 [9 favorites]


Here's an article about the failure of the suit at the federal level, which hinges on the definition of the operation as a "seasonal entertainment" that is exempt from Federal minimum wage laws.

This raises the question for me: why are seasonal entertainment operations exempted from federal minimum wage laws in the first place?
posted by drlith at 5:24 AM on April 3, 2014 [14 favorites]


The kids that work as performers at amusement parks in the summer are seasonal entertainment. They aren't getting minimum wage to walk around in those hot costumes and get attacked by kids?
posted by COD at 5:28 AM on April 3, 2014


why are seasonal entertainment operations exempted from federal minimum wage laws in the first place?

Big fruit and the pro-melon lobby.
posted by fatfrank at 5:33 AM on April 3, 2014 [5 favorites]


Raiders? More like the Stealers.

Hey now, it this was happening on the Steelers watch we'd be seeing more intercepted office email chains conniving to shut the suit down.
posted by Slackermagee at 5:35 AM on April 3, 2014


Here is what's so odious about this to me: it's not like the Raiders are a gigantic corporation squeezing another few million by systematically underpaying thousands of workers, or a small business putting a few extra thousand in the owner's pockets by taking advantage of a dozen or two employees. Rather, it is a medium-sized business that makes millions upon millions of dollars. They could pay the Raiderettes $25k each per season plus travel expenses, and it would have practically no impact on their bottom line.
posted by slkinsey at 5:36 AM on April 3, 2014 [31 favorites]


Slackermagee: "Raiders? More like the Stealers.

Hey now, it this was happening on the Steelers watch we'd be seeing more intercepted office email chains conniving to shut the suit down.
"

Except that the Steelers don't have cheerleaders.
posted by octothorpe at 5:37 AM on April 3, 2014 [6 favorites]


Gotcha, meet gotcha.
posted by Ice Cream Socialist at 5:41 AM on April 3, 2014


Except that the Steelers don't have cheerleaders.

For their own team, no. For everyone else, there's always another Worthlisberger bumble to warm their hearts.
posted by Slackermagee at 5:43 AM on April 3, 2014 [1 favorite]


octothorpe: "Except that the Steelers don't have cheerleaders."

They did in the 60s.
posted by Chrysostom at 5:52 AM on April 3, 2014


See also:

Rules For Ben-Gals Cheerleaders: "No Panties," "No Slouching Breasts"

NFL Cheerleading Is A Scam: A Former Ravens Cheerleader Tells All

It'd be hard not to assume that this horrible shit is going on in most, if not all, NFL cheerleader cohorts.
posted by zombieflanders at 6:09 AM on April 3, 2014 [2 favorites]


"She made an informed choice, she signed the contract...."

This is why I have a huge problem with assuming anything people consent to should therefore be legal and acceptable to do to the person. Indentured servitude often involved informed consent also, that doesn't mean it wasn't horrifically wrong.

I feel like there's a horrible injustice people do in the name of "empowerment" to claim, "Well if someone consented to it, to question their judgment is disrespecting them!"

I see that argument a lot and I feel like it's a bad one that allows the justification of grotesque harms done to human beings just because consent was obtained.
posted by xarnop at 6:13 AM on April 3, 2014 [32 favorites]


a huge problem with assuming anything people consent to should therefore be legal and acceptable to do to the person.

For a starters, always ignoring the context in which consent is given.
posted by MartinWisse at 6:16 AM on April 3, 2014 [4 favorites]


The NFL is registered and operating as a non-profit. Our legal system is completely broken and corrupted. This is just another symptom of the disease.
posted by deanklear at 6:21 AM on April 3, 2014 [3 favorites]


The NFL is registered and operating as a non-profit

This suit doesn't involve the NFL - which is merely operates the league, hires refs, sets schedules, rules, etc, etc etc.

This suit involves a franchise licensed by the NFL, which is not a non-profit and is wholly owned and operated by an entity that is not the NFL.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 6:31 AM on April 3, 2014 [7 favorites]


Rules For Ben-Gals Cheerleaders: "No Panties," "No Slouching Breasts"

Those would be appropriate rules in an erotic novel like Story of O or 50 Shades of Gray. They are wildly inappropriate in a modern workplace. That they are paid less than minimum wage really rubs in the salt.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:34 AM on April 3, 2014 [4 favorites]


This suit involves a franchise licensed by the NFL, which is not a non-profit and is wholly owned and operated by an entity that is not the NFL.

I think the point is that the sports-ball fish rots from the head.
posted by device55 at 6:36 AM on April 3, 2014 [5 favorites]


Christ, I didn't realize the employment terms for cheerleaders were so terrible. Those poor women.
posted by schroedinger at 6:54 AM on April 3, 2014 [2 favorites]


They are horribly underpaid but the nature of the disagreement has less to do with whether you can agree to a contract that is illegal - and hence not enforcable no matter if you signed - you can't agree to being paid less than minimum wage for example [Internships are a popular dodge for employers lately]. This dispute has more to do with a contract that limits employer / employee disputes to binding arbitration. From the LA Times quoting the lawyers for the defense:
“Both [plaintiffs] signed written employment agreements stating that ‘all disputes’ they have with the Oakland Raiders shall be subject to binding arbitration through the National Football League,” wrote attorney David J. Reis on behalf of the team. Raiderettes, he said, “are not entitled to seek redress in a court of law for any of their claims.” Nor, says the team, can the women be part of a class-action lawsuit.
It's reprehensibe in my view but I'm just trying to clarify the issue here.
posted by vapidave at 7:10 AM on April 3, 2014 [3 favorites]


Rather, it is a medium-sized business that makes millions upon millions of dollars. They could pay the Raiderettes $25k each per season plus travel expenses, and it would have practically no impact on their bottom line.

You're right, but keep in mind that the Raiders owners come from a group of people which collectively decided to lock out the league's referees over .035% of the league's total revenue (yes, .035% and not 3.5%, as in $3.2 million out of $9 billion), and only caved when the poor quality of the officiating had become a national embarrassment. The NFL has passed into a realm beyond penny-wise and pound-foolish where the only things that exist are defeating your imagined enemies at any cost and marveling at your own hubris.
posted by Copronymus at 7:15 AM on April 3, 2014 [17 favorites]


Thanks for the additional info, vapidave. IANAL, but my initial reaction would be that I would think binding arbitration clauses would be limited to disputes over the interpretation or application of the contract itself but not apply to accusations of labor law violations (if this does in fact constitute a violation of California labor law). Can you really sign away your right to pursue redress in the courts for violation of the law (as opposed to violation of the contract)?
posted by drlith at 7:25 AM on April 3, 2014 [2 favorites]


No illegal contract "violation of the law" is enforcable via any court and that is the hinge on which this case pivots I think. IANAL as well, perhaps some will clarify. The defense is arguing that no law has been violated [because contracts were signed where disputes would be submitted to binding arbitration and any violation of the law might be corrected in the arbitration process.].

It's a dodge in my opinion. A clever dodge but a dodge nonetheless. Arbitration has become a sort of shadow legal system I think.

I'm hoping some lawyers will offer their opinion.
posted by vapidave at 8:01 AM on April 3, 2014


It seems to me, if this is legal we should probably consider changing that state of affairs.
posted by xarnop at 8:02 AM on April 3, 2014


> [Internships are a popular dodge for employers lately]

That is what they will argue--it is an internship. True Fact: The Raiders' new quarterback Matt Shaub's wife met him while he was playing for the Atlanta Falcons and she was a Falcons cheerleader. NFL teams could probably charge for the privilege of being an NFL cheerleader. If you took Economics 1 and learned about opportunity cost, then you know they already are charging for it.
posted by bukvich at 8:02 AM on April 3, 2014


That is what they will argue--it is an internship. True Fact: The Raiders' new quarterback Matt Shaub's wife met him while he was playing for the Atlanta Falcons and she was a Falcons cheerleader. NFL teams could probably charge for the privilege of being an NFL cheerleader. If you took Economics 1 and learned about opportunity cost, then you know they already are charging for it.

Yes, but the question is whether it's legal for them to do so. Cheerleading is a sport with a high injury rate, for one thing. The team also makes bank on their images via calendars and also uses them for PR events; that's considerably more than your average intern does. Not to mention that there is no progress, for most of them, to a better-paid job in the industry, and also that most of these women are not beginners; they have been cheering for years. To call it an "internship" would be to hollow out any effective difference between "intern" and "employee (who happens to be badly paid)."

Which is not to say they won't find a way. But even if they do, I'm glad that this story is getting publicity, because it will make at least a few women, and parents raising girls who aspire to be cheerleaders, think twice about it as a career path.
posted by emjaybee at 8:49 AM on April 3, 2014 [2 favorites]


The Raiderette's handbook got leaked to the LA Times after Lacy T filed her lawsuit:
“First Impressions: It takes 3-5 seconds to form a first impression of someone. Think about the last time you met someone for the first time. You probably looked at their hair, jewelry, facial expressions, style of clothes, shoes and nails….Keep nail polish pads in your car for emergencies. Smile, shake hands with everyone.”

“Proper Introductions: An introduction should be as immediate as possible…In American culture there are three basic elements to a proper introduction…” (That would be a smile, eye contact and a handshake.) A handshake, says the guide, “is an American custom that should be extended immediately upon introduction. A handshake should last about three seconds, be firm, and be web to web.”

“Dining etiquette” addresses how to eat food in front of other people, which the handbook describes as “one of the most intimidating areas of etiquette.”

“If you don’t like your meal, try a little of everything and strategically move the rest around your plate.” And, “Gently unfold your napkin and place it on your lap. Fold it almost in half and place it with the fold side towards your body. If you need to leave the table, place the napkin on your chair, and don’t forget to say, ‘Excuse me.’”

“If you miss a Saturday rehearsal or weekday rehearsal (as in the final rehearsal prior to a game day performance), you will not be allowed to cheer that game. This means you will be fined 1 1/2 absences for the missed rehearsal and $125 will be deducted from your end of season pay for not performing on that game day. You will be notified if you are required to perform the pre-game and/or halftime routine and then remain in the dressing room for the duration of the game…Since three lates equal one absence and missing any rehearsal before a game is 1 1/2 absences, you can find yourself with no salary at all at the end of the season.”

posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 8:49 AM on April 3, 2014 [4 favorites]


Arbitration has become a sort of shadow legal system I think.
Pretty much this. Employment cases are expensive to litigate and expose the employer to negative publicity and potentially damaging outcomes, so employers generally prefer arbitration. There has been a significant and pronounced trend for employers to include arbitration clauses in their contracts (actually, this is an increasingly common thing in virtually all contracts). This is an extremely active area of litigation right now, with many things in flux. The central basis for attack by the plaintiff's bar is on the contract law of "unconscionability" which is more or less what it sounds like -- an argument that the arbitration clause is part of a contract process which is essentially too one-sided to be fair. Courts look at whether or not there was an alternate party with which the employee could have contracted (a problem for the Raiders) and if the contract was in fact subject to negotiation (which is likely where this case will be decided). My sense is that California is one of the more plaintiff-friendly states in this regard (and in most others).
posted by Lame_username at 9:02 AM on April 3, 2014 [3 favorites]


Emjaybee, what these ladies do isn't really cheerleading, in the sense that they do tosses and basket catches and high level mounts, pyramids, etc. They are professional dance teams. That being said, they are professional, and work very hard at what they do. It's not an internship, especially since there are tryouts and you have to be qualified as somewhat of a dancer to even try out in the first place.
posted by Kokopuff at 9:11 AM on April 3, 2014 [3 favorites]


The NFL Players Association should be organizing the cheerleaders. There is virtually nothing you can say about their working conditions that couldn't be said about the players': it's a privilege to be on the team, there are 100 people out there ready to step into your shoes if you don't want the job, you are subject to public scrutiny, your body needs to be in shape, you have a high risk of injury, etc.
posted by looli at 9:15 AM on April 3, 2014 [9 favorites]


A story about barely-compensated cheerleaders was a plot point in a Simpsons episode from last year.
posted by 41swans at 9:35 AM on April 3, 2014


This raises the question for me: why are seasonal entertainment operations exempted from federal minimum wage laws in the first place?

This has always been a sore point for me. In high school I worked year round for Parks and Rec and I started at $3.20 an hour. This was 1992 when the minimum wage in MN was 4.25 an hour. But I was seasonal because I was a lifeguard in the summer and an ice rink attendant in the winter (my paychecks came from the same place to the same employee account but were seperate seasons, so seasonal). I regularly worked more than 40 hours a week and the overtime pay was roughly minimum wage. I put up with it because I was a kid with no car (I could walk to both) and they were great jobs otherwise. I was blown away when I got a lifeguard job at a private gym and tripled my pay overnight (and they gave raises!).

The minimum wage for seasonal jobs, entertainment jobs (like in the OP), and the like need to change. It is very exploitative and I can relate to her not understanding how crappy and illegal it was when it was a job she wanted to do and didn't see the whole picture.
posted by Clinging to the Wreckage at 9:37 AM on April 3, 2014 [5 favorites]


I wonder if this will be an employee v independent contractor thing.
posted by jpe at 9:39 AM on April 3, 2014


A brief article on Martindale seems to support that.
Expect the Raiders to try to block these claims and argue that the Raiderettes are independent contractors and, thus, are not employees covered under California’s wage laws. In turn, the Raiderettes will likely argue that because they have little control over their job and because they are required to wear a specific uniform and to be at specific locations controlled by the Raiders, they are actually employees unlawfully categorized as independent contractors to avoid compliance with the wage and hour laws.
link
posted by jpe at 9:43 AM on April 3, 2014 [1 favorite]


When I was young, and hot, and a dancer, the Dallas cowboys recruiter showed up at the studio to try and recruit us to go try out for the cheerleaders. Hundreds and hundreds of girls would show up for tryouts. Back then, and I've no idea if it's changed in two decades, cowboys cheerleaders didn't get paid at all, and were absolutely forbidden from dating football players.

Someone upstream mentioned that these women were doing it just so they could fuck/marry football players, which in think is a really unkind and slut-shamey way of saying that they deserve all the shit they get from the team management, when in fact most teams have prohibitions about fraternizing.

That said, none of the girls I knew were willing to work for free. Dancers are already practically starving, to expect that a serious dance student without patronage could afford to give up 3 days a week for travel and practice and show was absurd.
posted by dejah420 at 10:27 AM on April 3, 2014 [12 favorites]


From the Ben-Gals handbook (article about it linked to above by zombieflanders):
ABSOLUTELY NO ARGUING OR QUESTIONING THE PERSON IN AUTHORITY!!!
posted by Flunkie at 10:28 AM on April 3, 2014 [1 favorite]


"This dispute has more to do with a contract that limits employer / employee disputes to binding arbitration."

Yeah, and part of the contention is that because the arbitration is handled by the NFL Commissioner, who is paid by NFL owners, it's not an unbiased third party.
posted by klangklangston at 11:57 AM on April 3, 2014 [4 favorites]


Much as I like looking a beautiful people, cheerleaders as a concept is fairly gross (which isn't a criticism of the people doing the actual cheerleading--often amazingly athletic and a testament to hard work and ability--I think "cheer" is awesome as a sport in and of itself).

It's double-gross to learn that cheerleaders are not paid as professionals despite being pros. That they have to put up with draconian rules and other bullshit on top of that just makes it worse.

The idea that the "opportunity" to fuck or marry some "high-value" male making it worthwhile is...beyond words.
posted by maxwelton at 12:17 PM on April 3, 2014 [6 favorites]


Yeah, and part of the contention is that because the arbitration is handled by the NFL Commissioner, who is paid by NFL owners, it's not an unbiased third party.

This is a problem with the arbitration industry in general- when given a choice between a company that will use the arbitration service over and over or the company's victim who will only be featured in this particular case, who do you think the arbiter will decide in favor of? Mandatory arbitration clauses need to be banned.
posted by Pope Guilty at 1:25 PM on April 3, 2014 [8 favorites]


Back then, and I've no idea if it's changed in two decades, cowboys cheerleaders didn't get paid at all

dejah420, I took a tour of the SportsPlaceArenaDome or whatever the fuck in Arlington a couple years ago, for the hell of it & to have something to do with the in-laws, and the guide informed us that the cheerleaders were paid about $10k/year. Which is also about how much each player's hand-made hardwood locker costs.

In other words, they value the happy, pretty dancing women as much as the thing sweaty clothes go in.
posted by univac at 2:34 PM on April 3, 2014 [5 favorites]


For those who haven't yet, the actual complaint (scroll to the end to see the shocking 'employment' contract) is eye-opening.

I hope the judge penalizes the Raiders back to the stone age for this. I had always--naively?--assumed that cheerleaders, as professional dancers, were paid commensurate with their skill and experience. Which, yes, I know isn't much. But it's more than a couple bucks an hour.

In other words, they value the happy, pretty dancing women as much as the thing sweaty clothes go in.

Given the unpleasant slut-shamey 'snag a football player' stuff above and this, there are some disturbing parallels to be drawn.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 8:52 AM on April 4, 2014 [2 favorites]


I had always--naively?--assumed that cheerleaders, as professional dancers, were paid commensurate with their skill and experience.

As a foreigner - me too. I guess I had sort of assumed that - as holders of fiercely contested jobs with stringent criteria - they might have commanded a salary a little like a model (or footballer).

And the detail about cheerleaders rarely socialising with those other than those in their lines is interesting too. I find that hard to imagine.
posted by rongorongo at 5:52 AM on April 5, 2014


Supply and demand. As long as the law allows it and there's a long line of women lining up to do the job, the conditions will be that horrible. A sad state of affairs. Parents, guide your girls into other professions, if you can.
posted by e40 at 12:06 PM on April 5, 2014 [1 favorite]


But there are tonnes of boys wanting to play in the NFL, and the ones that get one of the few spots are paid very well, even if they aren't superstars.
posted by saucysault at 4:33 PM on April 5, 2014


But there are tonnes of boys wanting to play in the NFL, and the ones that get one of the few spots are paid very well, even if they aren't superstars.

The difference is that very few of the boys actually have the talent to be an NFL player. There are a lot more pretty cheerleaders and dancers capable of handling the job as a NFL cheerleader.
posted by COD at 6:07 PM on April 6, 2014 [1 favorite]


As long as the law allows it and there's a long line of women lining up to do the job, the conditions will be that horrible.

The point is Lacy T. alleges that the law doesn't allow it.
posted by grouse at 7:30 AM on April 9, 2014


But there are tonnes of boys wanting to play in the NFL, and the ones that get one of the few spots are paid very well, even if they aren't superstars.

The difference is that very few of the boys actually have the talent to be an NFL player. There are a lot more pretty cheerleaders and dancers capable of handling the job as a NFL cheerleader.


There aren't minimum requirements to play in the NFL. No team has ever come up short on its roster limits, and for every college player who gets drafted in April, 343 other college players don't. More than a million boys are playing high school football in any given year -- that's three times as many as boys and girls who are cheerleading.
posted by Etrigan at 7:31 AM on April 9, 2014 [1 favorite]




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