In the wake of a series of wage theft lawsuits filed by NFL cheerleaders, a Tampa Bay Buccaneers cheerleader is suing team owners for unlawful pay practices. Manouchcar Pierre-Val alleges that she was paid less than $2 per hour while working for the team over the past two seasons.
Pierre-Val states in a complaint filed with the federal court that she earned $100 for each home game she cheered in, but was paid nothing at all for the more than 15 hours of weekly practice or the 40 hours’ worth of “community appearances” she was required to make each year.
Her lawyer, Kim Woods, says that the Bucs are in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act, which ensure payment of minimum wage and observance of overtime laws. The lawsuit on file is proposed as collective action.
“Given the countless number of hours the Buccaneers required its cheerleaders to spend practicing and attending non-profit community events on behalf of the Buccaneers, these paltry wages were far less than the applicable minimum wage in virtually all work weeks,” Woods said.
A spokesperson for the Buccaneers declined to comment on the lawsuit.
Pierre-Val is joining other cheerleaders in upsetting the typical NFL fan’s assumptions about who works as performer for the league. According to a personal video statement posted on the squad’s YouTube channel, cheerleading obligations came in addition to Pierre-Val’s full-time career as a registered nurse.
“Nursing and cheerleading … can’t be any different from each other,” she said in the video, “but they both allow me to be able to give back.”
Pierre-Val’s suit is just the latest in a flood of legal action initiated by former NFL cheerleaders. In recent months, women have sued the New York Jets, the Cincinnati Bengals, the Buffalo Bills and the Oakland Raiders for wage and hour violations. Raiderettes share Pierre-Val’s experience of being paid a flat fee of $125 per game with no compensation for the additional time they had to put in on behalf of the team.
Earlier this month, the Bills tried to have the lawsuit thrown out, claiming that cheerleader pay and work condition details was the responsibility of outside contractors.
If push comes to shove, the Buffalo cheerleaders may not hit the field when the season resumes in fall, as the squad’s management company has halted operations after the lawsuit was filed.
Stephanie Mateczun, the company’s president, claims that the Bills were trying to keep their team at arm’s length from its own cheerleaders.
“The Buffalo Bills own the trademark for the Jills, they control the field and everything that happens on that field, from the uniforms the cheerleaders wear to the dances they perform,” Mateczun said. “Yet the organization appears content to attempt to wash their hands of any connection to their own cheerleading squad.”
The employment attorneys at Emery Reddy are committed advocates of workers employed in both small and large companies. If you have experienced illegal employment practices—discrimination, wrongful termination, a wage dispute, or some other issue involving FMLA or ADA—we will defend your rights and help you receive the maximum compensation allowed under Washington law.