TAMPA — When she was a cheerleader for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Manouchcar Pierre-Val said being on the squad let her have fun and give back to the community.
But after less than a year, Pierre-Val decided cheerleading wasn’t a “smart choice for her because she wasn’t being compensated for the majority of the time” she worked, said her attorney, Kimberly Woods, of Morgan & Morgan.
On Monday, Woods filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of Pierre-Val accusing the NFL franchise of violating federal and state wage laws.
Pierre-Val was paid less than $2 an hour when all the time she was required to work was accounted for, Woods said.
The lawsuit seeks to be a class action on behalf of Bucs cheerleaders. Woods said she has talked to others who are interested in joining the action, but she couldn’t give any more information about how many women or their names.
Bucs spokesman Nelson Luis said he couldn’t comment on the lawsuit or on cheerleader pay in general, saying the team doesn’t comment on active litigation. He added, “As a general rule, we don’t discuss compensation practices for any members of our organization.”
When the Bucs held a tryout for the cheerleading squad last month, more than 100 young women showed up.
According to news reports, cheerleaders for at least four other NFL teams, including the Buffalo Bills and Cincinnati Bengals, have filed similar lawsuits, accusing teams of unfair labor practices or failing to pay minimum wage.
In March, the U.S. Department of Labor ruled that cheerleaders are not subject to minimum wage laws because they are seasonal workers. That investigation began after Oakland Raiders cheerleaders filed a class-action lawsuit.
Woods said the various lawsuits are all similar, but, “I think every team has their own arrangement” regarding cheerleader pay.
The Buccaneers pay cheerleaders $100 per game, and they are required to show up four hours before each game, Woods said. She said they are not paid for four to 15 hours of mandatory practices every week. The cheerleaders are also required to attend 40 hours of public appearance events each year.
They are compensated $25 to $50 an hour for corporate-sponsored events, but nothing for other kinds of events, Woods said.
In addition to being a cheerleader, Pierre-Val works full time as a registered nurse, Woods said. Pierre-Val talks about her work as a nurse in a video posted on the Bucs’ website. She says she works 12-hour shifts caring for patients with diabetes from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m.
“Since my job is so stressful and requires so much attention, (being a cheerleader) is a space where I can just let go and have a great time and just not be so serious all the time,” she says in the video. “I like to be a Bucs cheerleader because I feel like I can be an inspiration to others … if you have a goal and you have a dream it can definitely come true.”
The lawsuit alleges the team violated the Fair Labor Standards Act and that the women are entitled to unpaid wages and at least minimum wage for the hours they worked.
The complaint cites information from the team website that calls the cheerleading squad “one of the premier cheerleading teams in the NFL.” The squad makes about 300 community appearances every year, both for nonprofit organizations and corporate events.