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CALIFORNIA COURT OF APPEAL ISSUES IMPORTANT OPINION

ON ATTORNEY-CLIENT PRIVILEGE

August 12, 2014 — In a case filed by Levy Vinick Burrell Hyams LLP on behalf of an attorney suing her former employer for defamation, discrimination, and wrongful termination, the California Court of Appeals has issued an important ruling on the limits of the attorney-client privilege.  The opinion clears the way for attorneys working at law firms, just like those working as in-house counsel, to sue their former employers for discrimination and wrongful termination.

Read the full opinion in Chubb & Son v. Lemmon here.

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:  May 6, 2014

 

PRESS CONTACTS:

Sharon Vinick 510-318-7700

Patricia Pierce 215-735-1600

 

NEW YORK JETS SUED FOR WAGE THEFT

BY MEMBER OF THE FLIGHT CREW

Another NFL team is facing a class action lawsuit for wage theft brought by one of its cheerleaders.  A lawsuit was filed today by Krystal C in New Jersey state court against the New York Jets on behalf of their cheerleaders.   The complaint [Krystal C v New York Jets LLC] seeks monetary damages on behalf of all of the “Flight Crew,” as the Jet’s cheerleading team is called.  The case is the fourth lawsuit challenging the decades-old NFL wide practice of underpaying cheerleaders, in clear violation of law.

“The claims against the Jets are essentially the same as those brought against the Raiders, the Bengals and the Buffalo Bills,” said Patricia Pierce of Greenblatt, Pierce, Engle, Funt & Flores, one of the law firms representing the cheerleaders.  “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,” said Pierce.

According to the lawsuit filed today, the Jets hires the women who are selected to be on the Flight Crew as “employees,” but fails to pay them for all of the hours that they work.  Instead, the Jets only pays these women $150 for each game in which they appear, and $100 for each special event at which they are required to appear.  The women who work as members of the Flight Crew are not paid for time spent at the thrice weekly practices, nor are they paid for time spent at rehearsals or “Camp Days,” which are money-making cheerleading camps which are sponsored by the Jets.

Krystal C., the named plaintiff, said “I really enjoyed the Jets fans and performing as a member of the Jets Flight Crew. But it really astonished me that we were paid so little and were required to pay for our travel and required grooming when we cheerleaders are an integral part of game day and serve as role models for young girls. ”

Pierce added: “When you look at the actual hours worked versus what Krystal was paid, she only made $3.77 per hour. When you factor in the required hair, makeup and transportation expenses, the hourly rate goes below $1.50 an hour.”

The cheerleaders on the Flight Crew are also represented by Levy Vinick Burrell Hyams of Oakland, California, the law firm who filed the first of the cheerleader lawsuits on behalf of the Oakland Raiderettes.  “It is time for the NFL and all its teams to recognize that they are not above the law.  The cheerleaders provide an economic benefit to the teams and to pay them a living wage is not only legally required, but it is the right thing to do,“ said Sharon Vinick, of Levy Vinick Burrell Hyams.  “We just hope that the New York Jets will take the high road and won’t follow the lead of the Buffalo Bills who retaliated against the squad by cancelling cheerleading for the upcoming football season.”

Greenblatt, Pierce, Engle, Funt & Flores, LLC is a Philadelphia, Pennsylvania  law practicing in the areas of criminal, employment, civil and family law.  The firm’s website is:  www.gpeff.com.

Levy Vinick Burrell Hyams LLP is an Oakland, California firm specializing representing employees.  The firm’s website is: www.levyvinick.com.

A copy of the complaint can be found on the websites of both firms.

For additional information contact:

Patricia Pierce at 215-725-1600 or 215-450-8803

Sharon Vinick at 510 318-7700

 

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:  March 18, 2014

PRESS CONTACT:  Sharon Vinick 510-318-7700

 

Oakland Raiders Seek to Force Cheerleaders into Secret Arbitration Before NFL Commissioner; Deny Them Jury Trial in Wage Theft Case

March 18, 2014 – In response to a class action lawsuit (Lacy T. v. Oakland Raiders) filed by Raiderettes alleging wage theft and other violations of California labor law, team owners have filed a motion to force the cheerleaders out of court and into individual and secret arbitration before the NFL Commissioner. 

“This is an attempt to avoid public scrutiny of the adjudication of the cheerleaders’ claims that Raiders’ management has engaged in illegal employment practices for years,” said Sharon Vinick of Levy Vinick Burrell Hyams, the Bay Area law firm representing the cheerleaders.  “The owners want to have this employment issue decided by one man whose pay is dependent on the very teams that engage in the illegal conduct.”

The Raiders’ motion also claims that the lawsuit cannot be brought as a class action and its employees must bring individual actions to recover their unpaid wages.

“As we see it, this is a contract full of illegal provisions and trying to appoint the NFL Commissioner to act as judge and jury is just one more,” added Vinick. “It just doesn’t pass the smell test for the Raiders to suggest that the NFL Commissioner is unbiased when it comes to a dispute between the team owners who elect him and pay his $44 million salary and a group of non-unionized cheerleaders.”

The team’s motion to force the cheerleaders into arbitration claims that the dispute must be arbitrated under rules written by the NFL Commissioner and the decision of the Commissioner would be “final, conclusive and unappealable.” The rules also empower the Commissioner to force the parties to keep the entire proceedings confidential.”

“The NFL Commissioner can certainly enforce the rules of football. But a judge and jury should decide whether the Raiders have broken the laws of California, not a secret proceeding in which the Commissioner can, according to the NFL rules, disregard the laws of evidence used in judicial proceedings, disallow discovery, and conduct the arbitration in such manner as he deems appropriate” said Leslie F. Levy, another member of the cheerleaders’ legal team.

The case is currently in Alameda County Superior Court. The original complaint, filed in January, alleges that the club pays Raiderettes for only a fraction of the hours they practice and perform, withholds pay until the end of the season, does not pay overtime, and forces the cheerleaders to pay many of their own business expenses out of the low wages they earn.

Under the constitution and bylaws of the NFL, each team is required to forward copies of employment contracts to league headquarters.  According to Vinick, “If the NFL Commissioner gets copies of all of these illegal contracts, why hasn’t he taken steps to make sure that the cheerleaders are being paid in accordance with both state and federal law?

“In their first public response to our lawsuit, the Raiders are asking the court to allow the very person who has tolerated the illegal contracts to decide the cheerleaders’ case” she said, adding that her clients will be asking the court to find the NFL arbitration procedure unenforceable.

The case has drawn national attention, from sports fans to employment law experts alike.

“Letting someone be an arbitrator who is paid by and works for one side would be like letting a corporate defendant pick its CEO’s mother to decide cases between the corporation and its workers.” said Paul Bland, Senior Attorney at Public Justice, a national public interest law firm with offices in Oakland and Washington, D.C.  “This arbitration clause plainly violates both California and federal law,” he added.

The growing practice of requiring arbitration of employment disputes as a condition of employment has come under increasing attack by critics who claim that arbitration favors employers.  A bill called the Arbitration Fairness Act, now pending in Congress, would put an end to the practice of forced arbitration of employment disputes. Paul Bland, testified in hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee in October 2011 that many corporations are using arbitration agreements to eviscerate the ability of consumers and employees to bring class actions.  Other leaders in the fight against mandatory arbitration include the National Employment Lawyers Association and the Alliance for Justice.

The lawsuit against the Raiders was followed shortly by a similar lawsuit against the Cincinnati Bengals on behalf of a member of their cheerleading squad, the Ben-Gals, who also seeks to bring the case as a class action.

Levy Vinick Burrell Hyams LLP is an Oakland-based firm specializing in representing employees.  Anyone who is interested in further information regarding the lawsuit should visit www.levyvinick.com or call the toll-free number 1-866-318-7700.

 

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:  February 4, 2014

PRESS CONTACT:  Sharon Vinick 510-318-7700

 

Second Raiderette Adds Her Name to Class Action Lawsuit

February 4, 2014 — Attorneys for the Raiderettes class action have filed an Amended Complaint, adding a second plaintiff as a class representative.  The new plaintiff, Sarah G., has been a Raiderette for four years and last season was co-captain of her line.  The Amended Complaint, like the original complaint, alleges that the Oakland Raiders engaged in wage theft and other unfair employment practices.  Sarah G. alleges that she was not paid wages in a timely manner, and was not paid minimum wage.  Sarah G. also alleges that she was fined for trivial infractions of the rules, such as turning in her biography half-an-hour late.

Sarah G. explained her decision to join the lawsuit:  “Being a Raiderette was an amazing experience, which I will treasure forever.  However, after learning that the contract was filled with illegal provisions, as a matter of principle, I felt that I had to join the lawsuit to make sure that all of the Raiderettes are treated in a fair and legal manner, which recognizes our hard work, dedication and passion for dance.”

Levy Vinick Burrell Hyams LLP is an Oakland-based firm specializing in representing employees.  Anyone who is interested in further information regarding the lawsuit should visit www.levyvinick.com or call the toll-free number 1-844-318-7700.

 

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:  January 22, 2014

PRESS CONTACT:  Sharon Vinick 510-318-7700

 

Raiderettes Class Action Lawsuit Claims
Oakland Raiders Management Are Committing Wage Theft

January 22, 2014 — The owners of the Oakland Raiders are facing claims of wage theft and other unfair employment practices in a class action lawsuit filed today on behalf of current and former members of the Raiderettes, the NFL club’s popular cheerleaders. The complaint [Lacy T. v. The Oakland Raiders], filed in Alameda County Superior Court, alleges that the club withholds all pay from the  Raiderettes until after the end of the season, does not pay for all hours worked,  and forces the cheerleaders to pay many of their own business expenses.

“It’s as if the Raiders’ owners believe that the laws that protect all workers in California just don’t apply to them,” said Sharon Vinick of Levy Vinick Burrell Hyams LLP, the law firm representing the cheerleaders.

Pursuant to their contract, Raiders cheerleaders are to be paid only $1250 for working an entire season, which amounts to less than $5.00 per hour for the time that they spend rehearsing, performing and appearing at events for which they are not compensated. The club also withholds the Raiderettes’ wages until after the season ends.  Just last week, in an apparent response to rumors that they were about to be sued for wage theft, the Raiders paid many of the Raiderettes more than the amount promised in their written contracts. According to Vinick, “the Raiders decision to pay the cheerleaders more than their contract provides is an admission that their past practices and current contract are illegal.”  Vinick also said that the Raiders still owe tens of thousands of dollars in unpaid wages to women who worked as Raiderettes in previous seasons, and owes  thousands of dollars in penalties to the women who worked for them this past season.

Raiderette Lacy T., the lead plaintiff, explained, “I love the Raiders and I love being a Raiderette, but someone has to stand up for all of the women of the NFL who work so hard for the fans and the teams.  I hope cheerleaders across the NFL will step forward to join me in demanding respect and fair compensation.  We deserve it.”

The job of a Raiderette involves cheering and performing at home football games, participating in mandatory practices, drills, meetings and workouts, and representing the Raider organization at assigned community events.  The club identifies members of the Raiderettes only by first name out of concern for their security.  As a term of employment, Raiderettes are required to sign over the right to use their voice and image in merchandising and publicity materials, such as the 2014 Raiderette Swimsuit Calendar.

“I have never seen an employment contract with so many illegal provisions,” said attorney Vinick.  “The club uses the Raiderettes to build its image, sell merchandise, and promote the team.  Yet, they don’t pay these women during the course of the season, even though they are required to do so under California law.  They also illegally prohibit Raiderettes from disclosing how much they are paid, and insist that the Raiderettes waive any future claims that they may have against the Raiders.  I don’t know what to call it, other than exploitation.”

Vinick also noted that other NFL teams don’t pay their cheerleaders for all of the hours that they work.  “We believe that there is a widespread practice in the NFL of refusing to pay cheerleaders for all of the hours that they have worked, forcing them to work for months before they get paid, and demanding that they sign contracts that are filled with illegal provisions,” explained Vinick.

The lawsuit claims that team management did not pay Raiderette Lacy for all of the  hours which she worked, while at the same time requiring her to pay out of pocket expenses. Lacy explained, “It also costs money to be a Raiderette.  The club controls our hairstyle and makeup, and we have to foot the bill.  We also have to pay the costs for traveling to all kinds of events, including photo shoots.”

The lawsuit also claims that the Raiders illegally impose monetary fines on Raiderettes for such things as forgetting to bring the correct pom-poms to practice, wearing the wrong workout clothing to rehearsals, failing to bring a yoga mat to practice, or not turning in written biographies on time.

Vinick noted “What’s most amazing is that they have the audacity to write these illegal provisions into the employment contract.  The Raiders have blatantly disregarded the fair employment laws. ”

The class action on behalf of former and current Raiderettes charges the Raiders violate numerous aspects of the California Labor Code and the Business and Professions Code.

Levy Vinick Burrell Hyams LLP is an Oakland-based firm specializing in representing employees.  Anyone who is interested in further information regarding the lawsuit should visit www.levyvinick.com or call the toll-free number 1-844-318-7700.

 

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