California Governor Jerry Brown has passed legislation requiring sports teams to recognize professional cheerleaders as employees — not contractors — who are entitled to overtime, minimum wage, sick leave, and other labor protections available to team staff.
“We would never tolerate shortchanging of women workers at any other workplace,” said a statement from Democratic Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, who introduced the bill after the Oakland Raiderette cheerleaders filed a wage-theft lawsuit. “An NFL game should be no different.”
The Oakland cheerleaders were paid less than $5 an hour through a contract that didn’t include pay for the hours of rehearsals and public appearances, according to their attorney, Sharon Vinick. As a result of the lawsuit, dozens of Raiderettes who cheered between 2010 and 2013 received a $1.25 million settlement last year. Tampa Bay Buccaneer cheerleaders also received a settlement, too.
Worse, in addition to receiving sub-standard pay, cheerleaders have also had to pay for thousands of dollars in travel and personal appearance costs, too, according to attorneys for NFL cheerleaders.
Gonzalez, a former Stanford cheerleader herself, said many professional cheerleaders are treated as though they’re glorified volunteers.
State courts have looked to evidence of legislative intent in construing state law for over 100 years, so it makes sense that this bill will, according to Gonzalez, ensure that “multi-billion dollar sports teams treat cheerleaders with the same dignity and respect as every other employee.”
The new law covers any and all cheerleaders working with each professional team based in the state of California, including the ones at the minor league levels in addition to those at the major league levels. The law does not, however, apply to performers who appear only once per year, or have no affiliation with a team.
The National Football League told Reuters in an emailed statement that it urges every team to abide by state and federal employment law. The league did not, however, take a stand on the bill.