Nothing to Cheer for: Cheerleaders Claim Overtime Pay and Other Violations of California Labor Law

The Oakland Raiders are on the receiving end of a bomb thrown by a Raiderette cheerleader who has filed a class action lawsuit against the team claiming a number of pay practices violate California’s wage and hour laws, including:
  • failure to pay minimum wage,
  • failure to timely pay wages due,
  • improper deductions from wages,
  • failure to pay overtime,
  • failure to provide proper wage statements,
  • failure to reimburse business expenses
The minimum wage in California is currently $8 per hour and is set to increase by 12.5% to $9 per hour as of July 1, 2014, followed by an 11% increase to $10 per hour as of January 1, 2016.  The official notice regarding the amendment of the General Wage Order and IWC Industry and Occupation Orders can be found here – http://www.dir.ca.gov/IWC/MW-2014.pdf.  The Oakland Cheerleaders are paid a flat rate of $125 per game claim which they claim amounts to an effective rate of less than $5 per hour.  If true, the math is pretty simple and would place their wages significantly below the minimum threshold set by the California Labor Code. Among its many worker protection laws, California wage regulations require that most employees be paid at least two times during each month on the days designated in advance by the employer as regular paydays.  A notice must be posted that shows the day, time and location of wage payments in order to comply with the Labor Code.  To be timely paid, wages earned between the 1st and 15th days, inclusive, of any calendar month must be paid no later than the 26th day of the month during which the work was performed, and wages earned between the 16th and last day of the month must be paid by the 10th day of the following month.  For payroll periods where the earning period is something other than between the 1st and 15th, and 16th and last day of the month – such as weekly, biweekly or semimonthly, must be paid within seven calendar days of the end of the payroll period within which the wages were earned.  The lawsuit claims that the cheerleaders were not paid twice a month, but rather, paid only once for all of their work, and that occurred at the end of the season. Under California law, an employer’s ability to withhold or make deductions from a worker’s wages is limited but may include:
  • Deductions that are legally required of the employer such as income taxes or garnishments.
  • Deductions expressly authorized in writing by the employee to cover insurance premiums, hospital or medical dues or other deductions not amounting to a rebate or deduction from the wage paid to the employee.
  • Deductions authorized by a collective bargaining or wage agreement, specifically to cover health and welfare or pension payments.
According to the lawsuit, the Raiders made numerous improper deductions from the cheerleaders’ pay as a result of fines levied against them for things such as wearing the wrong workout clothes or uniform, gaining weight, failing to bring a yoga mat to practice or losing pom-poms. California’s laws regarding overtime pay are renowned for their favorability towards employees.  As compared to federal wage and hour law (the FLSA) and the vast majority of other state’s overtime labor laws, California stands out as providing the most protection and compensation for non-exempt workers.  In short, California Labor Laws require overtime pay to be paid to non-exempt employees under the following circumstances:
  • Any hours worked over 8 per day at 1 ½ times regular pay rate
  • Any hours worked over 40 per week at 1 ½ times regular pay rate
  • First 8 hours on the 7th consecutive day worked at 1 ½ times regular pay rate
  • Any work in excess of 12 hours per day at 2 times regular rate
  • Any work in excess of 8 hours on the 7th consecutive day at 2 times regular rate
As it is unlikely that the cheerleaders meet the requirements to fall into any of the classes of workers considered “exempt” under California wage orders, the cheerleaders were likely due an overtime premium whenever they met any of the above requirements.  A failure to pay overtime wages in California can lead to very expensive penalties and additional damages being incurred – on top of having to pay the back overtime wages that should have been paid. The suit goes on to claim that the cheerleaders incurred a number of expenses that should have been reimbursed.  Such unreimbursed business expenses included travel, hairstylists and makeup and amounted to almost half of their annual compensation.   According to the CA labor code, an employee is entitled to be reimbursed by her employer for all expenses or losses incurred as the direct consequence of the discharge of the employee’s work duties.  Travel costs and mileage reimbursement tend to be the most commonly reimbursed expenses, however, other items such as tools supplied by the employee, uniforms, cell phone costs, computers, and even home office related expenses are also typically reimbursable to the employee. It’s now up to the Raider’s defense (legal defense team that is) to see what they can come up with to try and stop these claims from advancing across the goal line – an apparently daunting task that will in all likelihood result in a settlement and a change in the pay practices and policies of the team going forward. If you work in California and have any doubts as to your entitlement to overtime pay or reimbursement for business related expenses, contact the overtime pay experts at The Lore Law Firm for a FREE and CONFIDENTIAL review of your circumstances – because time is money.

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