Bengals Cheerleaders File Class Action Against Team Over Compensation
On February 11, 2014, Cincinnati Bengals cheerleader Alexa Brenneman filed a class-action lawsuit against the team, accusing the organization of failing to pay their cheerleaders minimum wage. Brenneman’s suit claims that she was paid only $855 for her work during the 2013 football season, yet worked over 300 hours – meaning that she was making roughly $2.85 per hour. The minimum wage in Ohio is $7.85 per hour.
The Oakland Raiders were recently hit with a similar suit; Raiders’ cheerleaders filed an action in January that accused the team of paying them less than $5.00 per hour for their time. Apparently, NFL cheerleaders are often compensated in this manner – receiving a flat fee per game, and often don’t receive payment until the season is complete. Teams often have rules which also require cheerleaders to appear at charity events for minimal pay.
Brenneman’s complaint alleges violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act and the Ohio Minimum Fair Wage Standards Act, and seeks compensatory damages, attorneys’ fees, and court costs. Todd Naylor, one of the attorneys for Brenneman, commented “[These cheerleaders] do [their job] because they love it and I think we can have a fair debate in this country about what the minimum wage should be. What I don’t think we can have a fair debate about is, if the law is on the books, whether it should be enforced…. It’s part of the Ohio Constitution that they are required to do this. If they work these hours then they should be compensated.”
The Bengals issued the following statement: “The Ben-Gals cheerleading program has long been a program run by former cheerleaders and has enjoyed broad support in the community and by members of the squad. [This] lawsuit appears to be a copycat lawsuit that mimics the one filed last month in California against a different NFL club. The Bengals will address the litigation in due course.”