Sis-Boom-Bah! Cal. Passes Law Making Cheerleaders Employees

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By Casey C. Sullivan, Esq. on July 16, 2015 1:06 PM

California cheerleaders have a new reason to cheer today after Governor Jerry Brown signed into law a bill guaranteeing basic employee rights for cheerleaders. The bill, introduced by Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, herself a former cheerleader, comes after a series of lawsuits by professional cheerleaders who alleged they often worked without pay or even simple employment protections.

It's not just cheerleaders who will benefit. In a nod to team spirit, the legislation will also protect professional mascots, from the Giant's Lou Seal to the L.A. Clipper's Frankie Muniz.

A "No Brainer" for Employment Protections

The legislation, AB 202, requires professional sports teams to treat cheerleaders as employees, rather than independent contractors. Being designated as an employee will bring the cheerleaders a host of benefits, including minimum wage, overtime, sick leave and health benefits. Previously, the many professional sports teams' cheerleaders would be paid only a small fee for a year's worth of demanding work.

Though the "ditzy cheerleader" is a common stereotype, Assemblywoman Gonzalez says that passing the law is the real "no brainer." "We would never tolerate shortchanging of women workers at any other workplace," Gonzalez said Wednesday. "An NFL game should be no different."

Gimme a J! Gimme a U! Gimme an S-T-I-C-E!

The law vindicates many of the complaints made by professional cheerleaders over the past few years. A class action lawsuit by 90 former and current Raiderettes, for example, alleged a number of wage and hour violations. Raiderettes were paid $125 for an eight-hour shift every home game, or a little over $15 an hour. But that did not include the many unpaid hours spent in mandatory rehearsals and events. 

The cheerleaders were also expected to cover their own out of pocket expenses and travel costs while facing pressure to work even when injured. They even faced fines for minor infractions.

Those conditions were widespread throughout the industry, the Raiderettes alleged. Meanwhile, as cheerleaders cheered for peanuts, the NFL and NHL teams that employed them were bringing in billions of dollars. The Raiderettes settled their class action for $1.25 million last year.

California's new law should bring an end to cheerleading and mascot controversies in the Golden state -- at least as far as basic employment protections go. We'll still need separate legislation to outlaw U.C. Santa Cruz's horrific banana slug mascot.

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