Advertisement
  1. News

Former Bucs cheerleader hits team with claim for unpaid wages

The Bucs' 2014 cheerleaders were introduced during the NFL draft party earlier this month at Raymond James Stadium.
Published May 20, 2014

TAMPA — A former cheerleader for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers filed suit against the football team Monday, bringing to five the number of NFL franchises that have been hit with unfair labor claims this year.

Manouchcar Pierre-Val alleges that she is owed at least minimum wage for more than 500 hours she worked for the team.

"These women were required to attend multiple practices per week, be at the stadium all day on game days, and attend at least 40 hours of events for nonprofits throughout the season," said Kimberly D. Woods, the attorney for Morgan & Morgan, P.A. who filed the nine-page suit in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida.

Since January, cheerleaders for the Buffalo Bills, Cincinnati Bengals, Oakland Raiders and New York Jets have filed similar "wage theft" suits.

The former cheerleaders for those teams also revealed details about their jobs, such as "jiggle tests" to see if they had put on weight.

Pierre-Val, 25, is a registered nurse from Orlando who cheered for the Bucs during the 2012-2013 season. During that time, her attorney said, she was paid $100 per game but worked many more unpaid hours leading cheerleading clinics, visiting charity events, posing for swimsuit calendars and practicing.

"If you do the math," Woods said, "you see she earned less than $2 per hour — while the minimum wage in Florida was $7.67."

Pierre-Val, who did not try out for the squad this year, is the only Bucs' cheerleader named. But Woods said she has talked to other former cheerleaders who are considering signing onto the collective action complaint.

During the past three years, she said, the squad of 34 women should have been paid more than $500,000. For Pierre-Val, the amount would be approximately $3,000, accounting for the amount she was already paid.

The Buccaneers refused to comment on the suit Monday.

The suit quotes the team website: "As a Tampa Bay Buccaneers Cheerleader, the ladies are consistently busy rehearsing, performing and volunteering for community events and appearances. The squad makes approximately 300 community appearances every year for both non-profit organizations and corporate events."

Some optional corporate appearances are paid. But most charity events require that cheerleaders act as ambassadors free of charge.

During the year that Pierre-Val cheered, the Bucs' annual gross revenue, the suit said, "was in excess of $500,000 per annum."

"You have a huge empire like that, and you can't pay 34 women minimum wage?" said Woods.

In suits filed against other NFL teams, cheerleaders complained about men at corporate events groping them on golf courses and at casinos, about rules governing how much bread they can eat and how often they have to change their tampons.

Buccaneers' cheerleaders "definitely had to comply with strict rules — no cursing, no photos of them drinking, how they had to maintain their hair," said Woods. But those weren't part of Pierre-Val's complaint. "Her suit is strictly about monetary compensation," Woods said.

Cheerleaders know what their compensation will be when they join the squad, the lawyer acknowledged.

But, she said, "You can't waive your rights under the Fair Labor Standards Act. Even if someone says they'll work for free, the law is still the law. You've got to pay employees at least minimum wage."

Pierre-Val was not available for comment Monday. But according to the Bucs' website, she is a registered nurse who works with diabetic patients and frequently does 12-hour overnight shifts. She became a "professional" cheerleader, her video biography says, "because it allows me to be able to give back. Since my job is so stressful, this is a place I can let go and have a great time, just not be so serious all the time."

The Buccaneers have 21 days to respond to the suit, Woods said. By then, she hopes, other women will have signed on to collect their back wages too.

"I don't know why it's taken 30 years for them to come forward about this," she said. "But I'm sure all the girls have felt for a long time like they should be getting more money."

Times researcher Caryn Baird and staff writers Rick Stroud and Joe Smith contributed to this report. Lane DeGregory can be reached at degregory@tampabay.com and (727)893-8825.

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. Pasco school bus drivers are among those school-related employees who would get a 3.25 percent raise under a tentative contract agreement for 2019-20.
    District, union attention now turns to teacher contracts.
  2. Jose Vasquez, Jr., 22, of Tampa was charged with manslaughter on Monday after a man he fought outside the Brandon Crossroads bowling alley on Nov. 10, 2019 died from his injuries, according to the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office. Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office
    The man Jose Vasquez, Jr. fought outside of Brandon Crossroads hit his head twice on the pavement and died on Saturday, deputies said.
  3. In this Thursday, Aug. 1, file photo, Amanda Kondrat'yev, the woman accused of throwing a sports drink at U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz in June outside a town hall meeting, arrives at Winston Arnow Federal Court House in Pensacola, Fla. Kondrat'yev has been sentenced to 15 days in federal custody for throwing the sports drink at Gaetz. TONY GIBERSON  |  AP
    Amanda Kondrat’yev pleaded guilty to assault in August and had faced up to a year in jail.
  4. Check tampabay.com for the latest breaking news and updates. Tampa Bay Times
    Charges are pending, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.
  5. Maxwell Guss, 34, of Bradenton was arrested on Monday afternoon on two counts of Lewd and Lascivious Conduct by a person over 18. Sarasota Police Department
    Maxwell Guss has been on administrative leave from Brookside Middle School, where he was a business teacher.
  6. Travelers make their way to baggage claim at Orlando International Airport in August. Officials expect 1.75 million passengers to pass through the airport during the Thanksgiving holiday season.
    Officials at Orlando International Airport on Monday said they expect traffic to increase 6% from 2018.
  7. Fresno Police Chief Andrew Hall addresses the media as community leaders and personnel stand behind him about a shooting at a house party which involved multiple fatalities and injuries in Fresno, Calif., Monday. (AP Photo/Gary Kazanjian) GARY KAZANJIAN  |  AP
    Police were investigating whether the shooting was connected to a recent “disturbance” involving some of the people at the party.
  8. In this Oct. 29, 2019, file photo, Army Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, a military officer at the National Security Council, center, arrives on Capitol Hill in Washington. Vindman is set to deliver public testimony about President Donald Trump’s alleged attempt to pressure Ukraine to investigate a political rival. Democrats and Republicans are expected to press contrasting narratives about the 20-year Army veteran’s decision to come forward to allege abuse of power by his commander-in-chief. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File) PATRICK SEMANSKY  |  AP
    Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman and Jennifer Williams say they had concerns as Trump spoke on July 25 with the newly elected Ukraine president.
  9. This two photo combination image taken from video released June 21, 2017, by the Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid, shows kidnapped teachers Australian Timothy Weekes, top, and American Kevin King, who were both abducted by the insurgents in Afghanistan in August 2016. Three ranking Taliban prisoners released by the Kabul government have been flown to Qatar for an expected swap for the American and the Australian hostage held by the insurgents since their abduction in 2016, Taliban officials said Tuesday. (EL-EMARA Taliban via AP, File) AP
    The hostages were released in southern Zabul province, ending their more than three years in captivity.
  10. Teacher Kate Newell watches seventh graders Aaron Roxberry and Jacob Iovino practice the slope-intercept formula in one of her weekly visits to their Bayonet Point Middle algebra class, which Newell usually teaches remotely. JEFFREY SOLOCHEK  |  Times Staff
    A roundup of stories from around the state.
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement