Classification of NFL Cheerleaders an Issue in Wage and Hour Case
In an earlier post we discussed the fact that over the course of the last 15 years, wage and hour claims have risen dramatically. In that post we mentioned that misclassification could be one of the reasons for the increase. Because it is possible that people engaged in a variety of occupations could file these claims, many different types of employers could find that they are defending against wage and hour claims.
Some employers, who have faced claims of this nature lately, are the owners of certain NFL football teams. It is not the football players making the claims. Instead, it is the cheerleaders. While several teams have faced these cases, most recently, it is the Buffalo Bills. Thus far, the teams that make their home in Maryland have not been involved.
Five former cheerleaders for the team, known as the Buffalo Jills, filed individual lawsuits against the team. Those individual claims are now moving forward as a class action. The cheerleaders allege they were:
- Paid below minimum wage
- Required to attend unpaid events
- Made to feel uncomfortable by some attendees who were male
- Forced to adhere to strict behavioral guidelines and dress codes
The main issue of the case is what the cheerleaders are entitled to, based upon how they have been classified. Prior to these lawsuits cheerleaders throughout the NFL were considered independent contractors. As independent contractors, certain workplace and wage rights are not available to them. This was the basis of the wage and hour claims made by other NFL cheerleaders, as well. Previous cases have resulted in monetary settlements. In addition, at least one state has made a law that classifies cheerleaders as employees.
Whether the team involved in this case will also settle remains to be seen. As is the case in any situation where an employer is facing a claim of this nature, a lawyer can be of assistance to the team.