California governor Jerry Brown signed a bill into law requiring that any cheerleader who works for a professional sports team in the state receive the minimum wage, workers’ compensation and other benefits.
The bill, AB 202, removes the cheerleaders as independent contractors and instead recognizes them as employees, who are entitled to sick leave, overtime pay, and other labor protections available to team staff. The new law takes effect next year.
The bill was introduced after the Oakland Raiders were sued twice in the past two years, accused of unfair labor practices. Cheerleaders for the Cincinnati Bengals, New York Jets and Buffalo Bills have sued those teams in recent years, claiming violation of labor laws.
In the case against the Raiders, 90 women who worked for the team from 2010 to 2013 sued the team. Among the claims in the lawsuit said that any member who gained five pounds from her weight at the start of the season, or who appeared “too soft” to the squad’s director, was benched for the next home game. That suit was settled for $1.25 million.
In January, another lawsuit filed was in Alameda County Superior Court in California, with a cheerleader claiming that the “Raiderettes” were forced to show up to “deplorable” working conditions and “grueling” training sessions at the beginning of each season that they weren’t paid for. The plaintiff in the case said that the cheerleaders performed with injuries in fear of being benched or fined.
California’s minimum wage is $9 per hour, and the lawsuit says that the team’s cheerleaders were paid $1,250 per season, or about $5 an hour.
The author of the bill AB 202, assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, says that the labor law violation of cheerleaders is a “nationwide problem” and hopes the NFL would step in and grant similar protection for its teams.
But NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy says the league does not manage cheerleaders’ employment. “Teams are advised to follow state and federal employment laws,” he said.