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Rah Rah! California Recognizes Pro Cheerleaders Are Employees

August 24, 2015 by

Governor Brown has signed a bill passed by the California legislature mandating that cheerleaders performing for California-based professional sports teams be employed as employees, not as independent contractors.  The bill affirms that cheerleaders are employees for purposes of all provisions of state law governing employment, including those providing for unemployment insurance benefits and prohibiting discrimination.  The law covers cheerleaders utilized at more than one event per calendar year by major and minor California-based professional baseball, basketball, football, ice hockey and soccer teams.

Democratic Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez introduced AB 202 following last year’s legal victory for the Oakland Raiderettes.  In 2013, the Raiderettes filed a class-action lawsuit against the team alleging a host of wage and hour violations, including withholding wages for months and failing to pay minimum wage and to indemnify the cheerleaders for necessary business expenses.

Historically, Raiderettes were paid $125 per game for ten games—or about $5 per hour—far below the minimum wage for hours of mandatory rehearsals, practice and public appearances.  Additionally, Raiderettes were forced to shoulder necessary business expenses including travel and adherence to strict and costly personal appearance requirements.  Ultimately, the Raiders paid a $1.25 million settlement from the team and agreed to a contract nearly tripling the Raiderettes’ pay.

While courts and other adjudicatory entities routinely determine that workers are legally employees, AB 202 is a rare step by a state legislature to classify a type of worker in a specific industry.  The bill’s success may pave the way for similar legislation impacting other industries with rampant worker misclassification, such as the construction and transportation industries.

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