California Professional Sports Cheerleaders Are Now Classified As Employees


Cheerleaders for professional sports teams have been entertaining fans for decades. Most professional cheerleaders have been classified as independent contractors, leaving them with little to no employee rights under federal and state laws. On July 15, 2015, California Governor Jerry Brown signed a new bill, Assembly Bill 202, requiring California professional sports teams to classify their cheerleaders as employees. California is the first state in the nation to pass legislation providing employment protection to professional cheerleaders.  California’s professional cheerleaders are now eligible for minimum wage, overtime, sick days, and other labor law protections under the new bill. Read on to learn more.

Overview of AB202

California State Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego) introduced AB202 after 90 current and former Oakland Raiderette cheerleaders filed a wage-theft lawsuit against the Oakland Raiders.

The cheerleaders were classified as independent contractors. This meant that they were not covered by state labor laws. In their lawsuit, the Raiderette cheerleaders claimed that they were not paid properly, alleging that they  were paid below the minimum wage, were not paid for work rendered or untimely paid, and were provided no meal or rest breaks. The cheerleaders claimed that they were paid less than $5 an hour for their appearances at games, rehearsals, and other special public events which they were required to attend. In addition, the cheerleaders were allegedly required to pay for certain travel expenses out of their own pocket. The Raiders settled the case for $1.25 million.

AB202, which adds Section 2754 to the Labor Code, will protect professional sports cheerleaders from workplace abuses and guarantee them basic employee rights. Under the new law, which goes into effect January 1, 2016, cheerleaders will be classified as employees and will be compensated for all of their working time, including practices.  California professional sports teams will be required to pay their cheerleaders minimum wage and provide sick leave, overtime compensation, and other applicable employment benefits. The bill received bipartisan support in both the Assembly and the Senate.

Assemblywoman Gonzalez stated the following regarding the passage of the bill:

“We would never tolerate shortchanging of women workers at any other workplace. An NFL game should be no different.” said Gonzalez, a former high school and collegiate cheerleader. “Today we took an important step toward ensuring that multi-billion dollar sports teams treat cheerleaders with the same dignity and respect as every other employee who makes the game-day experience special.”

The National Football League (NFL) did not directly oppose the bill. NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy stated that the league does not manage cheerleaders’ employment and advised teams to follow state and federal employment laws. Cheerleaders for the Buffalo Bills and Tampa Bay Buccaneers have filed similar labor lawsuits. New York state has introduced legislation to protect cheerleaders’ employment rights similar to California’s new law. California’s National Basketball Association (NBA) teams already classify their cheerleaders as employees. 

The new law is welcome news for cheerleaders of California professional sports teams. If you believe you are a victim of wage-theft, contact our law office for a consultation.

Sources

Cheerleader sues Oakland Raiders over wages

Governor Brown Signs Gonzalez Bill Providing Professional Sports Cheerleaders With Employee Rights

New California law recognizes pro cheerleaders as employees

California cheerleaders win right to be paid and treated like regular employees

Reasons To Cheer – California Governor Signs Bill Requiring Professional Sports Franchises To Classify Cheerleaders As Employees

 


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