On June 12, 2018, Erica Wilkins (“Wilkins”), a former cheerleader for the Dallas Cowboys (“Cowboys”), filed a lawsuit against the team in Texas federal court on behalf of herself and other Cowboys’ cheerleaders. Wilkins, who worked for the Cowboys from May 2014 until August 2017, accused the team of paying its cheerleaders less than “Rowdy,” the team mascot and neglecting to pay them overtime, violating the Equal Pay Act and Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”).
According to Wilkins, despite their similar job requirements, she and the other cheerleaders made $8 per hour while “Rowdy” earned $25 per hour. Although “Rowdy” earned approximately $65,000 annually, Wilkins never earned more than $16,500 in any of her three years working for the Cowboys.
The discrepancy in earnings was exacerbated by the cheerleaders’ lack of overtime pay. The team did not calculate the time the squad spent working on game days into their weekly total hours, and also failed to pay them for the social media posts, which they were required to write and which promoted the team. In addition to being an overtime violation, Wilkins alleges that failing to include these activities in the cheerleaders’ work hours dropped their actual wage to below $7.25 an hour, in violation of the FLSA’s minimum wage provision.
The suit is not the first instance of a cheerleader suing an NFL team for violating labor laws. Recent years have seen suits against the Oakland Raiders, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Cincinnati Bengals, San Francisco 49ers, New York Jets, and Houston Texans.
The Oakland Raiders settled its suit in September 2014 for $1.25 million, while the Cincinnati Bengals agreed to a $255,000 settlement in August 2015. Most recently, in January 2016, the New York Jets settled its cheerleaders’ class action for $325,000.
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Simpson, Dave. “Ex-Cowboys Cheerleader Files FLSA, Equal Pay Class Action. Law 360. Last modified on June 12, 2018.