A former cheerleader for the Dallas Cowboys filed a lawsuit against the team on Tuesday and is seeking “unpaid overtime wages, minimum wages, and all other available damages” for what she alleges was an unfair work environment.
In the lawsuit, filed in U.S. district court, Erica Wilkins claims she and other cheerleaders were paid just $8 an hour — a salary three times less than “Rowdy,” the team’s mascot, who was paid $25. The lawsuit accused the Cowboys of violating the Fair Labor Standards Act and the Equal Pay Act.
According to The Dallas Morning News, Wilkins worked for the team from 2014 until August of last year. She also alleges that the Cowboys sometimes failed to pay her and that when she added her total earnings and divided by the number of hour she worked for the team, the hourly rate did not even amount to the federal and state minimum wage: $7.25 per hour. Among her game-day cheerleading and practice duties, Wilkins also appeared in the reality show Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders: Making the Team, which airs on the CMT network.
NFL teams have come under the microscope in recent months for their treatment of cheerleaders, whom often work long grueling hours for minimal pay and are expected to adhere to strict beauty and physical fitness standards. One team, documents showed, gave cheerleaders explicit instructions on how they should wash their vaginas, among a long list of other best personal grooming practices.
And in April, another former cheerleader sued the New Orleans Saints for gender discrimination after she was fired over a racy photo she posted on social media. In that lawsuit, the plaintiff, Bailey Davis alleged that the team had a policy that stipulated a strict ban on cheerleaders even appearing to co-mingle with the players. “If I were eating in a restaurant and a player walks in, I had to leave,” Davis said in an interview. “We couldn’t follow them on Instagram, or like their pictures. If an official photo from the Saints account was a photo of a player alone, we couldn’t ‘like’ the photo,” Davis revealed. “It wasn’t until I was fired that I learned only cheerleaders had those rules.
For more on the story and to hear Wilkins discuss why she’s suing, watch the video below.