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Cincinnati Bengals, cheerleaders reach tentative lawsuit settlement

CINCINNATI - The Cincinnati Bengals reached tentative settlement of a federal lawsuit over pay for their cheerleaders, one of several cases in which NFL cheerleaders claimed they received substandard compensation.

Documents filed recently in U.S. District Court show the Bengals agreed to pay Ben-Gal cheerleaders a total of $255,000 to settle the 2014 lawsuit alleging that their time commitments for games, practices and promotional events netted them payment that was below minimum wage.

Those covered cheered in the 2011-13 seasons and could receive at least $2,500 each per season. Court documents state that the Bengals started paying more in 2014 and that the team denies any wrongdoing but decided to settle the lawsuit to avoid lengthy, expensive litigation.

The settlement is subject to a Dec. 3 fairness hearing, and the Bengals can cancel the deal if cheerleaders with a combination of six years or more opt out. For example, if two cheerleaders who each worked three seasons refuse it - or six who each cheered one year - the Bengals have the right to withdraw.

Former cheerleader Alexa Brenneman would receive an extra $5,000 from the Bengals as the lead plaintiff in the legal action. An attorney for her declined comment Wednesday, and a Bengals spokesman said the team had no comment on the case.

California Gov. Jerry Brown this year signed legislation recognizing professional cheerleaders in the state as employees who are entitled to minimum wage, overtime and other labor protections. Dozens of Oakland Raiders cheerleaders had settled a lawsuit with that NFL team after claiming they were paid less than $5 an hour when rehearsal time and public appearances were included.

NFL players, who, granted, are the stars of the game, make an average of $1.9 million annually. An attorney for a Buffalo Jills squad member told the Los Angeles Times that her client made about $3.77 an hour, roughly half the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour, after adding in the unpaid practices and appearances that are required as part of the job.

On top of skimpy pay, the Raiders' cheerleaders were socked with a lineup of fines if they were out of line, ranging from everything from forgetting a yoga mat to wearing the wrong workout clothes, the January lawsuit had alleged.

A former Milwaukee Bucks cheerleader recently sued the NBA team, saying she received far less than minimum wage of $7.25 an hour for games, practices, team functions and photo shoots. The team said it believed the lawsuit was without merit and will contest it.

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