Settlement with Jets cheerleaders could affect rest of NFL

By Greg Travis | Feb 23, 2016

TRENTON, N.J. (Legal Newsline) – A recent settlement between the New York Jets and their cheerleaders could generate enough publicity that it will affect other NFL teams, a New Jersey attorney says.

The Jets, who paid more than $150 million to players for the 2015 season, agreed to pay their cheerleaders $324,000 in back wages. The cheerleaders alleged they were not paid for practices and were required to work "off-the-clock" at home. 

In addition, they were responsible for out-of-pocket expenses such as makeup, travel and maintenance of their uniforms. When these expenses were taken into account, the cheerleaders only netted about $1.50 per hour in their original agreement, leading to the 2014 lawsuit.

“The settlement does not establish any law or binding precedent, but given the publicity that it is generating, it is likely to have some deterrent impact on other NFL teams and other sports teams that are not meeting wage requirements," said Vincent Antoniello, who represents plaintiffs in employment lawsuits and is a partner at the Resnick Law Firm in Rosedale, N.J. 

“Every employee should be paid in full for all hours worked. It is particularly disappointing when you see minimum wage claims arising out of a multibillion-dollar industry."

Earlier this month, a New Jersey state judge approved a $324,000 settlement between the Jets and the 52-member cheerleader squad for unpaid wages and the reimbursement of work-related expenses. The suit covers the 2012 and 2013 NFL seasons, and the plaintiffs will receive anywhere from $2,559 to $5,913 each depending upon when they were employed by the team.

In addition, those cheerleaders who participated in photoshoots were awarded $400 per shoot. As part of the settlement, the Jets will not be required to admit any wrongdoing regarding the matter. How the Jets or other NFL teams will pay cheerleaders in the future remains unclear.

This has not been the first settlement between cheerleaders and NFL teams. In similar suits, the Oakland Raiders settled for $1.25 million in 2014, the Cincinnati Bengals for $255,000 in 2015, and recently the Buffalo Bills cheerleaders were granted class action status.

The Bills have subsequently dropped the cheerleader squad, known as the "Buffalo Jills," altogether.

Last year, a bill known as the Cheerleaders’ Fair Pay Act was brought before lawmakers in New York and is currently pending. If successful, the bill will provide cheerleaders of professional sports teams in New York with the same rights, benefits and protections as those employees who have entered into professional sports services contracts.

Another bill has been introduced in New Jersey seeking similar benefits such as minimum wage protection and unemployment compensation for professional sports cheerleaders in that state.

“Any employee in any field who is not being paid at least the minimum wage, or is not being paid for time worked, should contact an attorney immediately," Antoniello said.

"Failure to pay wages is a serious offense on the part of any employer, not just sports teams."

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