A California bill filed last week would require professional sports teams in the state to treat their cheerleaders as employees.
“NFL teams and their billionaire owners have used professional cheerleaders as part of the game day experience for decades,” Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D), the bill’s sponsor and a former collegiate cheerleader, said in a statement. “They have capitalized on their talents without providing even the most basic workplace protections like minimum wage.”
The bill, AB 202, would also cover overtime compensation and standards for working conditions. It comes after a class-action lawsuit was filed last year by two former cheerleaders for the Oakland Raiders who accused the team of violating labor laws, including withholding pay until the end of the season and paying less than $5 an hour. California’s minimum wage is currently $9 an hour.
Cheerleaders were also forced to spend personal funds for some work-related expenses, which they were not compensated for, and work unpaid overtime, which is illegal under state law but commonplace for NFL cheerleaders, Gonzalez’s office said.
The Raiders reached a settlement for $1.25 million in September. Similar suits were also filed against the Buffalo Bills, Cincinnati Bengals, New York Jets and Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
“If the guy selling you the beer deserves a minimum wage, so does the woman entertaining you on the field,” Gonzalez said. “All work is dignified and cheerleaders deserve the respect of these basic workplace protections.”
The bill defines cheerleaders as individuals who perform acrobatics, dances or gymnastic exercises to promote a professional sports franchise. There are nearly 200 cheerleaders and dancers for California’s three NFL and four NBA teams.