Many Georgia residents may think that NFL cheerleaders earn high salaries. However, a wage and hour complaint recently filed by some NFL cheerleaders from one East Coast team indicates otherwise. According to the complaint, they were not even being paid minimum wage.
These five cheerleaders are not alone. Women from two other professional teams in different states are making the same claims. They also claim to be subjected to routine sexual harassment. An additional claim suggests that they are degraded and demeaned. Some claim they were even “auctioned off” at a golf tournament.
The cheerleaders are classified as independent contractors by the team, though they claim to be employees. They buy their own uniforms and are not reimbursed for any expenses, including travel. Even though they presumably agreed to these conditions, they now say they spend more hours and have more expenses than they originally believed would be required.
The Buffalo Jills — the name of the cheerleading group — who are parties to the suit are requesting that the court order the team to pay them back pay and legal fees and recognize them as employees instead of independent contractors. The defendants are Stejon Productions Corp., the Buffalo Bills and Citadel Communications Co.’s former manager. The defendants made no comment regarding the veracity of the women’s claims because they do not discuss active litigation.
It will be up to the court to determine the classification of the cheerleaders. This case illustrates the need for Georgia companies to take the time to ensure that individuals fully understand whether they are considered employees or independent contractors and how the compensation will work in either case when they are hired. Otherwise, an individual could be in for a rude awakening, and the company could end up defending a wage and hour complaint.
Source: wtvm.com, “5 former Buffalo Bills cheerleaders sue over pay”, Carolyn Thompson, April 22, 2014