A California state appeals court has affirmed a lower court’s approval of a settlement involving the Oakland Raiders and two former cheerleaders, who had alleged that the team had violated state labor law.
Another former Raiderette, Jenny C., who was part of a similar class action, had objected to the $1.25 million settlement reached in Lacy T. et al., v. The Oakland Raiders, Alameda County Superior Court, Case No. RG14710815.
Jenny C. appealed the settlement, arguing: “(1) there is insufficient evidence the settlement is reasonable; (2) the release in the settlement agreement is too broad; (3) the settlement is not fair, adequate, or reasonable; and (4) the settlement agreement is unenforceable as a matter of law.”
By way of background, the Raiders employed the Raiderettes from 2010 to 2015. Each year, the team hired a new Raiderettes squad. But some women worked as Raiderettes for multiple seasons. Lacy T., the named plaintiff in the original lawsuit, was a Raiderette during the 2013-2014 season. Jenny C., meanwhile, was a Raiderette in the 2012 and 2013 seasons.
In 2014, Lacy T. filed a complaint against The Raiders on behalf of a class of 90 Raiderettes (plaintiffs or class members). She alleged 11 claims for violations of the Labor and Business and Professions Codes, including failure to pay minimum wage, failure to pay overtime compensation, failure to reimburse for business expenses, and failure to provide meal and rest breaks. The complaint also alleged claims under the Private Attorney Generals Act (Lab. Code, §§ 2699, et seq., (PAGA)).
The day after Lacy T. and her co-plaintiffs agreed to mediate, a second class action complaint was filed on behalf of the same class of Raiderettes, against the NFL and the Raiders – Jenny C. et al., v. The National Football League et al., Alameda Superior Court Case No. RG14727746.
The Raiders agreed to pay $1.25 million to settle the Lacy T. case.
Jenny C. objected. As relevant here, she stated that “(1) requiring a wage claimant to release unpaid wage claims violated California law and public policy; (2) the settlement was overbroad and unenforceable because it released the plaintiffs’ claims against the NFL, which was not a defendant in Lacy T.; and (3) the settlement was not fair, adequate, or reasonable. According to Jenny C., the settlement undervalued the plaintiffs’ damages, failed to provide her with an incentive payment, did not enjoin future illegal employment conduct, and did not redress the lack of changing facilities and inadequate security.”
The court, noting basically that the two claims were one and the same, found that “no additional notice to the class was required” and “overruled Jenny C.’s objections and approved the settlement.”
Jenny C. appealed.
The appeals court first held that the scope of the release was “appropriate,” noting that the release in question “may refer to all claims raised in the pending action, or it may refer to all claims, both potential and actual, that may have been raised in the pending action with respect to the matter in controversy.”
Next, it turned to Jenny C.’s argument that “the settlement is not fair, adequate, or reasonable because the settlement represented only a fraction of the ‘full value’ of the plaintiffs’ claims.”
In response, the appeals court wrote that “she has not established that the court abused its discretion by concluding the settlement was fair, adequate, and reasonable. We reject Jenny C.’s claim — unsupported by authority — that the settlement is inadequate because it does not enjoin ‘future illegal employment conduct’ by The Raiders ‘and their agents.’”
Finally, it turned to her contention that the settlement “is unenforceable because it requires plaintiffs to release their claims for unpaid wages in violation of Labor Code section 206.5.” The appeals court was unmoved here, as well, noting that “employees are permitted to release claims to past wages ‘as part of a settlement of a bona fide dispute over those wages’ (Chindarah v. Pick Up Stix, Inc. (2009) 171 Cal.App.4th 796, 803),” which is what happened in the instant case.
J Lacy T. et al. v. The Oakland Raiders; Ct. App.; Ct. App. Calif., 1st. App. Dist.; A144707, 2016 Cal. App. Unpub. LEXIS 8923; 12/13/16