Cheerleaders Should Get At Least Minimum Wage & Equal Pay, Right?
WAGE THEFT AND EQUAL PAY LAWSUITS PLAGUE NFL EMPLOYERS
Although the start of the NFL football season is months away, a number of teams have recently been the focus of headlines for Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) claims brought by their team cheerleaders. A former Dallas Cowboys cheerleader has brought the most recent lawsuit in Texas Federal court alleging the Cowboys violated the FLSA and the Equal Pay Act by failing to properly pay overtime and for paying her less than the team mascot, who is male. The suit alleges that Equal Pay Act was violated as cheerleaders for the team were paid $8 per hour, while the team mascot was paid about $25 per hour for similar job responsibilities. Further, the suit alleges FLSA violations by failing to count the cheerleader's game day work hours towards her weekly work hour totals when calculating overtime and often she was not paid for her work, which brought her hourly rate below the required $7.25.
This case follows a number of other lawsuits brought by NFL cheering squads and cheerleaders alleging unfair employment practices, misclassification, and wage theft (paying less than the minimum wage, not paying overtime, requiring off the clock work, etc.). In fact, not even a month ago a former Houston Texans cheerleader filed a suit alleging hundreds of unpaid working and overtime hours based on unpaid time spent traveling, at required gym and spray-tanning sessions, and time spent signing team calendars. There is no doubt these types of cases rise to national attention based on the identity of the defendants, but they address the same issues many employees, within the entertainment industry and otherwise, face in a climate that has attempted to water down some of these employment issues.
TAKEAWAYS FOR ALL EMPLOYERS
While many of these lawsuits in the NFL settle before making it through the litigation process, there are nonetheless a number of takeaways for employers. First and foremost, it is important to understand what "working time" is and how to document it in order to fairly compensate your employees. Second, make sure you are correctly classifying your employees and where applicable, correctly calculating and compensating employees for overtime. Lastly, it is imperative that employers always follow the laws. While this last point may seem like common sense, it can be lost when politicians' views differ or they place less weight on some laws and policies. The NFL cheerleading cases pose a perfect example that no matter what interpretation or importance politicians and legislators may place on a law or policy, such as employee classifications and "working time" definitions, the courts will still follow the laws and so should you.
If you have questions or would like assistance reviewing your company policies regarding classification of employees, overtime or working time, please contact Thompson Coe at (651) 389-5000 or myHRgenius@thompsoncoe.com. You can also find helpful information and resources regarding this topic and much more at https://thehrgenius.com/.
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