Inspired by Oakland Raiderettes, New York Jets Cheerleader Sues NFL Team

Taking a cue from the Oakland Raiderettes nearly 3,000 miles away, a former New York Jets cheerleader sued the team on Tuesday, claiming she’s paid less than $4 an hour.

It's the fourth such lawsuit filed nationwide.

Reached by phone on Tuesday in New Jersey, the Jets declined comment through a team spokesman. An NFL spokesman did not immediately return a phone call or email seeking comment.

“Krystal C." -- a 25-year-old dance education student who declined to further identify herself, citing safety concerns -- filed the class action suit seeking damages for unpaid wages and reimbursement of work-related expenses in Bergen County Court in New Jersey.

Krystal alleges, while she and her “Flight Crew” squad are paid $150 per game and $100 per special event, her  salary drops to just $3.77 an hour because of all the additional "off the clock" hours she and the squad are required to work. That total drops to $1.50 an hour counting the mandatory hair, makeup and transportation expenses the cheerleaders must spend, her suit claims.

Some of the extra hours she put in without being paid include having to show up to games 3.5 hours before they start, selling Flight Crew calendars, and helping out at junior cheerleader camps.

New Jersey’s minimum wage is $8.25 an hour.

“Cheering in that field in that live stadium with thousands of fans and players is an experience you’ll never forget,” the Connecticut resident told NBC Bay Area by phone Tuesday morning. “But I started feeling that there is this unfairness. I did all the math, and our paycheck wasn’t summing up.”

She said she was nervous to sue. But she was heartened by the Oakland cheerleaders’ suit against the Raiders, which she says grabbed her attention. She ultimately decided her voice “needed to be heard.”

Krystal C., who cheered for one season in 2012,  is being represented by Patricia Pierce of Greenblatt, Pierce, Engle, Funt & Flores in Philadelphia and Sharon Vinick and Leslie Levy in Oakland. The Oakland firm kicked off the national wave of cheerleader suits, when their clients, Lacy T. and Sarah G. first filed suits against the Oakland Raiders (PDF), alleging they make a little less than $5 an hour, in December and January, respectively.

“The failure to pay women who work as cheerleaders a legal wage for all of the hours that they work is clearly an NFL-wide problem that needs to change,” Pierce said.

Since the Raiderettes lawsuit, Alexa Brenneman, a Ben-Gal cheerleader, sued the the Cincinnati Bengals in February in federal court. She says she makes just $2.85 an hour. The team filed a motion to dismiss the suit, which has yet to be ruled on.

And, in April, five Buffalo Jill cheerleaders sued the Buffalo Bills  saying they weren't paid for their time at games or mandatory public appearances that left them open to groping and sexual comments, including being subjected to a weekly “Jiggle Test,” where their butts, stomachs, arms and hips were scrutinized while they did jumping jacks.The next day, the production company that manages the Jills announced the cheerleaders will not perform this season. The Bills have declined to comment.

It is unclear if the Raiderettes will cheer this season either. Typically, the squad’s tryout dates are held in April, according to Vinick. No tryout dates have been posted, and so Vinick said the cheerleaders are wondering what the future holds. A call to the Oakland Raiders’ attorney, David Reis in San Francisco, on Tuesday was not immediately returned.

The Raiders have not spoken publicly on the issue, but in court papers filed in Alameda County Superior Court in March, asked a judge force the cheerleading plaintiffs to plead their case directly to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, rather than a judge.

Vinick said she submitted a brief arguing that the forced arbitration contract is both “unconsciounable” and obviously “biased in favor of the NFL.”

A hearing for the Raiderettes case is scheduled for May 14.

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