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California cheerleaders now eligible for overtime and benefits

Recently, cheerleaders from various professional sports teams have filed wage lawsuits because they have been treated like independent contractors. A wage dispute filed on behalf of cheerleaders for the Oakland Raiders prompted Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzales to write a bill. Her bill was recently passed in California and will change the way that cheerleaders are classified to now make them eligible for benefits such as overtime. Gonzales noted that everyone involved in a game day experience works hard and deserves an equal level of respect, including the right to be compensated for their work. 

The Raiders cheerleaders claimed that they were treated like employees, but not viewed as such. Like employees, they were required to practice their routines for many hours and be present at events. They also were allegedly never guaranteed a minimum hourly wage and were required to perform all of their job duties while only being paid once a year. Ultimately, the NFL team settled the claims, agreeing to pay $1.25 million to 90 cheerleaders.

Because the women were viewed as independent contractors, they were not eligible for overtime, benefits or sick time. Under the new law, cheerleaders for professional sports teams located in California will now be protected. Their status will be changed to employees, and they will now be afforded all of the benefits which they were denied previously.

This bill covers all minor and major league teams based in California. The NFL did not make a stand on the bill but did note that it encourages all of its teams to follow state and federal employment laws. Similarly situated workers who feel that they are improperly classified can turn to the legal system for the opportunity to present their claims. Successful claims may results in judgments for unpaid overtime and other wages in accordance with applicable law.

Source: Reuters, "Cheerleaders deemed team employees under new California law", Sharon Bernstein, July 15, 2015

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