California bill would classify pro sports cheerleaders employees

Wed Jul 1, 2015 8:52pm EDT
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SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - A bill currently before California Governor Jerry Brown would make clear that cheerleaders for state-based professional sports teams are employees, following high-profile lawsuits alleging labor violations in the state and elsewhere around the country.

The bill, which would add a section to the state's labor code specifying that cheerleaders are team employees, passed the state Senate by a margin of 26 to 6 on Monday after easily clearing the Assembly.

It was not immediately clear what action Brown would take. His office generally does not comment on pending legislation and Brown has a little over a week left to decide, his press secretary, Evan Westrup, said.

"Everyone who works hard to provide a great game day experience deserves the same basic level of dignity and respect on the job, starting with simply being paid for their work," Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, who authored the bill, said in a statement after it passed.

The legislation aims to guarantee employee rights, like minimum wage and employment protections, for workers who perform "acrobatics, dance, or gymnastics" at team events and games.

The bill was introduced in January, just months after the National Football League's Oakland Raiders, based in Oakland, California, agreed to pay $1.25 million to settle a lawsuit brought by 90 members of the team's cheerleading squad.

The performers alleged they were underpaid or faced lengthy delays in receiving their wages in violation of state labor law, in the first of its kind lawsuit against the NFL.

A wave of similar suits followed against other NFL franchises last year, including the Cincinnati Bengals and the New York Jets, over unfair pay.

A similar bill was proposed in New York state last month after five former Buffalo Bills cheerleaders sued the franchise for wage theft, according to the local Journal News.   Continued...

Jun 9, 2015; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers cheerleaders perform during the second quarter of game three of the NBA Finals against the Golden State Warriors at Quicken Loans Arena. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports