NY Jets Cheerleader Files Wage Class Action

     HACKENSACK, N.J. (CN) - The New York Jets pay their cheerleaders just $3.77 an hour - or $1.50 an hour after out-of-pocket expenses - far below New Jersey's minimum wage of $8.25, when they pay them at all, a cheerleader claims in a class action.
     Krystal C filed the class action against the Jets in Bergen County Court.
     "The Jets, while paying millions of dollars to its male athletes for a single season of work, have historically and currently pay less than minimum wage to its cheerleading staff," the complaint states. "The cheerleaders are required to work off the clock at home, attend rehearsals three days a week from may through December without pay, attend 'charity events' without pay, and are required to spend their own money on travel, uniform maintenance and cosmetic and hairstyling requirements set by the Jets."
     The National Football League is not a party to the case, as Krystal's employment contract was with the Jets, not with the league.
     The lawsuit is at least the fourth against NFL teams this year, accusing them of illegally underpaying their cheerleaders. The Oakland Raiders, Cincinnati Bengals and Buffalo Bills all face similar lawsuits. The Bills suspended operations of their cheer squad after accusations of hostile conditions that included groping and "jiggle tests." Five Buffalo Bills cheerleaders filed that lawsuit in April.
     In the new lawsuit, Krystal claims the Jets paid cheerleaders "the sum of one hundred fifty dollars ($150), subject to withholding, for each Jets game at which employee performs" and ''the sum of one hundred dollars ($100), subject to withholding, for all services performed at an outside event sponsored by employer or its affiliated entities."
     She claims that "in a single season, plaintiff spent hours performing work under the contract, including attending practices, for which she was not compensated."
     Krystal claims that "on 'Camp Days,' which occurred on Saturdays and Sundays in July, each Member worked 7 hours per day. Flight Crew 'Veterans' were paid a flat fee of $100. However, 'Rookies,' such as plaintiff, were not paid at all for this work."
     The Jets also "required members to maintain a specific personal appearance, including hair style, make up, and nail appearance, and each member worked approximately 6 hours per week on personal appearance maintenance, at their personal expense."
     Krystal has naturally curly hair, but "the Jets required her to wear her hair straight, which in turn required her to see a hair stylist each week at an approximate cost of $45 per styling."
     She claims that the team "did not pay (her) and all other Flight Crew members any compensation for these activities other than the flat $150 per-game payment and the $100 payment made to some Flight Crew members for some activities, in violation of the New Jersey Wage and Hour Law."
     Based on calculations from numbers in the complaint, Krystal claims she was paid an average of $3.77 an hour for her time on the Flight Crew - $1.50 an hour after out-of-pocket expenses.
     The Jets declined to comment on the lawsuit.
     Krystal seeks class certification and damages for violations of wage and hour laws for a class numbering "at least thirty to forty" cheerleaders.
     She is represented by Patricia V. Pierce with Greenblatt, Piece, Engle, Funt & Flores of Philadelphia.
     The NFL has no uniform policy on its teams' cheerleading squads or their wages, but attorney Sharon Vinick, who filed the initial suit against the Oakland Raiders and is involved in the Jets suit, told ESPN that the league does require copies of all the contracts teams make with service providers, and is not prohibited from raising the issue with teams, or mandating standards.