Raiderettes File Class Action Suit vs. Raiders, NFL Claiming “Deplorable” Working Conditions

Two more Oakland Raiderette cheerleaders filed a class action lawsuit on Wednesday, claiming that they are not paid according to state law and work in “deplorable” conditions, and sometimes have to change in public bathrooms with no privacy. 

Aside from wages, though, this suit alleges humiliating behavior, such as being chastised when the cheerleaders didn't look right. Raiderettes who were deemed "too tan" were called "oompa loompas," the orange creatures from "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory," according to the suit. Raiderettes who were not tan enough, the suit alleges, were ordered to go to tanning salons.

This second suit, filed in Alameda County by plaintiffs Caitlin Y. and Jenny C., (PDF) is separate from two suits filed by two other Raiderettes back in December and January making similar allegations. It also follows on the heels of other suits by Bengals, Bills, Jets and Buccaneers cheerleaders.

Among other complaints, Caitlin Y. alleges that she was specficially targeted because her breasts were "too large," according to the suit.

But the main difference in Wednesday’s lawsuit, filed by the San Francisco firm, Bradshaw & Associates, is that these cheerleaders are taking on not only the Oakland football team, but the National Football League, too.

With the suit's 15 causes of action, the cheerleaders accuse the defendants of breach of labor code and contract, as well as of failing to provide changing facilities, wage statements and meal breaks. The suit asks for back wages and injunctive relief to make the behavior stop. 

“Football in America is our most favorite sport,” attorney Drexel Bradshaw said in an interivew. “These performers are treated unfairly and illegally in violation of the California Labor Code. And this is an NFL problem nationwide.”

The Raiders' attorneys, David Reis and Adam Kretz, and the NFL spokesman did not return requests for comment on Wednesday.

In March, the Raiders filed a motion on a separate class action case – filed on behalf of Lacy T. and  Sarah G. – arguing the cheerleaders had to arbitrate their case to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, rather than a judge. That decision is currently on hold.

Also on hold is the question of when the Raiderettes will be practicing. The squad did not hold its annual April tryouts, and to date, there is no practice schedule posted. Practice traditionally has started in June.

The lawyers who filed the latest case on behalf of the two Raiderettes told NBC Bay Area they did not consult or collaborate with the Oakland lawyers, Leslie Levy and Sharon Vinick, who brought the country’s first cheerleading lawsuit against the Raiders about six months ago.

“I’m surprised,” said Darci Burrell, an attorney at Levy Vinick Burrell and Hyams. She added she's not sure if the judge will seek to consolidate the two cases.

Many of the claims in Wednesday’s lawsuit reiterate the allegations the first two Raiderettes made in December and January when they sued the team: That they are paid about $125 a game, but end up making about $5 or so an hour with all the required extra promotional activities they are required to attend.

Wednesday’s lawsuit pointed out the disparity in revenue and pay between the league and the cheerleaders: “Even though the Oakland Raiders’ yearly revenue is as much as $229 million and NFL yearly revenue is about $10 billion, Raiderettes made, at most, less than $6.50 per hour on job duties,” the suit alleges.

In addition to wages, Caitlin Y. and  Jenny C. also describe some of their working conditions as “deplorable.” Some of those conditions include:

  • Being told their weight can't fluctuate more than five pounds each week. “Every aspect of Raiderettes' bodies were inspected by defendants and their agents for any imperfection, no matter how slight. Raiderettes who did not meet arbitrary weight and fitness were 'benched' for the next game.”
  • Attend a “two piece” practice each week, wearing nothing but sports bra and short shorts.
  • Being forced to change in crowded public restrooms with little to no privacy after tailgating party known as "Raiderville." During some of these events, the women were allegedly groped by inebriated men and exposed to derogatory comments with no security provided by the NFL or the Oakland Raiders.
  • At a golf tournament, Raiderettes forced to mingle with "harassing photographer" who "constantly cajoled" the Raiderettes to "pose in sexually suggestive poses that were inappropriate for a public (or private) working environment."
  • At the end of each season during the four years covered by the suit, every Raiderette was terminated and required to re-audition for a position on the squad.

“I loved being a Raiderette and being able to cheerlead for my favorite NFL team, the Oakland Raiders," Caitlin Y. said in a statement. "But the conditions I had to endure were not fair, nor were they legal. Standing up to the NFL takes guts and I hope that female NFL athletes across the nation will join me in demanding what’s only right: Decent conditions and pay, and proper respect.”

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