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Former NFL cheerleader sues Jets, alleging wage theft

Lawsuit is the fourth of its kind as professional cheerleaders seek fair wage compensation for their work

The New York Jets has became the fourth National Football League (NFL) team to be sued by former cheerleaders alleging wage theft and other labor-law violations.

Krystal C., who spent one year as a Jets cheerleader in 2012, filed the lawsuit in New Jersey’s state Superior Court in Bergen County on Tuesday. That's also where MetLife Stadium — home to the Jets and the New York Giants — is located.

The cheerleader, who chose to be identified in court papers as Krystal C. instead of by her full name, and other members of the Jets "Flight Crew" earned $150 per game and $100 for required special events. However, she says, they weren't paid for practice time, travel time or other appearances.

Krystal C. told Reuters she was encouraged to file the lawsuit after seeing other cheerleaders do likewise. Since January, similar legal action has been taken by cheerleaders of the Oakland Raiders, Cincinnati Bengals and Buffalo Bills.

"When you look at the actual hours worked versus what Krystal was paid, she only made $3.77 per hour," her attorney Patricia Pierce said.

"The failure to pay the women who work as cheerleaders a legal wage for all of the hours that they work is clearly an NFL-wide problem that needs to change," Pierce said.

The New York Jets did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment.

In April, a wage-theft lawsuit brought by five former cheerleaders with the Buffalo Bills prompted the cheering squad to suspend operations for the upcoming season, which starts Sept. 14.

The lawsuits have focused attention on the working conditions of cheerleaders, who, unlike professional football players, are not represented by a labor union.

"There has been some talk of organizing a national cheer association as a result of these lawsuits, and that is a possibility," lawyer Marc Panepinto, whose firm represents the five former Buffalo cheerleaders, said in an interview.

The lawsuit by the Bills cheerleaders, known as the Buffalo Jills, alleges the women were forced to work up to 840 unpaid hours a year.

The women also charge they had to pass embarrassing body fat inspections known as the "jiggle test."

"They work their rear ends off literally and figuratively to be Jills," Panepinto said. "You can't not pay people when they do work."

Oakland Raiders cheerleaders allege in their lawsuit filed in January that their pay works out to be less than $5 per hour, and the Cincinnati Bengals lawsuit in February said their pay amounts to less than $2.85 an hour, significantly under Ohio's minimum wage of $7.85.

Neither the National Football League nor Stejon Productions Corp., which manages the Jills, responded to a request for comment.

Al Jazeera and wire services

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