Supporting the Oakland Raiders on the field is apparently not paying off for the ladies on the sidelines.
A Raiderette is blowing the whistle, saying she and the other cheerleaders are being treated unfairly, a claim that has the Raiders playing defense.
The cheerleader, known as Lacy T., says she and her fellow cheerleaders are not even making minimum wage, so she is going on the offensive to fight for better pay, as well as compensation for things like hair and public appearances.
Lacy T. says she and the other cheerleaders receive $1,250 for the whole season. That's $125 per game, or less than $5 an hour. They pay out-of-pocket for everything else.
Wednesday, she filed a lawsuit in Alameda County Superior Court, hoping the Raiders will change their business practices.
The first-year Raiderette told NBC Bay Area she was thrilled to have landed a spot as one of "football's fabulous females."
“This is a dream job for me, and probably for most of the girls on the team,” she said.
But Lacy T. said her dream job turned into a nightmare when she realized that she and her fellow Raiderettes would not be getting paid until the end of the season, and only for games, nothing else.
“I realized, wait a minute, we're not going to paid minimum wage for all these hours we're putting in,” Lacy T. said. “I'm not going to see a paycheck for nine months.”
That's when she turned to Sharon Vinick, an Oakland-based attorney who specializes in employment and labor issues. She said the case was about an "exploitation of women.”
“Not paying somebody until the end of the season. Blatantly illegal,” Vinick said. “Requiring them as a condition of their employment to agree never to sue the Raiders, that's blatantly illegal. And that's a provision in their contract."
Lacy T. and her attorney are taking the Oakland Raiders to court, saying the team is in violation of California wage and employment laws. They are hoping to be certified as a class action on behalf of all current and former Raiderettes who have cheered for the Raiders since 2010.
“I hope that they step forward and they get brave and stand next to me, and hopefully make a big difference and change the future for Raiderettes to come,” Lacy T. said.
The Raiders declined to comment when NBC Bay Area reached out to the team.
But David Rosenfeld says the team doesn't have a strong defense anyway. He is an Alameda-based union labor law attorney who has written a book called California Workers’ Rights.
“Looking at the allegations of the complaint, and particularly the attached agreement, I don't think they got a defense to any of this,” Rosenfeld said. “For example, they require the women to pay for lots of expenses, hairstylists, makeup and things like that, and California law has been explicitly clear that an employer must pay for or indemnify for anything that he or she expends."
Lacy T. said her fellow Raiderettes are her motivation for stepping forward and fighting for respect.
“If nothing else, we deserve to be paid minimum wage for every single hour worked and reimbursed for out-of-pocket expenses and paid in a timely manner,” Lacy T. said. “So, if that is what comes out of this, then it was 100 percent worth it.”
Aubrey Aquino, a former Raiderette who cheered for two seasons more than a decade ago, told NBC Bay Area she thinks the cheerleaders should be better compensated.
“However, the majority (if not all) of the ladies in the pro ranks aren't doing it ‘for the money,’” Aquino said. “What this job offers are priceless memories and friendships.”
Vinick said, by her estimates, the women who cheered for the Raiders last season could be entitled to somewhere between $10,000 and $20,000 each in wages and penalties.