Pro Cheerleaders Win Employee Rights in CA

     SACRAMENTO, Calif. (CN) – Professional sports cheerleaders in California are employees and entitled to minimum wages under a bill signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown.
     Assembly Bill 202 will require professional sports teams to pay their cheerleaders minimum wage and overtime and to provide sick leave, workers’ compensation for injuries and protection under other employment laws.
     The legislation authored by Rep. Lorena Gonzalez, D-San Diego, came on the heels of lawsuits across the country by National Football League cheerleaders who claimed they were not paid for required job duties.
     One of the lawsuits, brought by about 90 former Oakland Raiderettes, was settled for $1.25 million in September.
     But Gonzalez told Courthouse News that the settlement did not seem like a potent enough remedy for the issue.
     “We needed to change the way we’re looking at these cheerleaders statutorily,” she said. “When drafting this bill we realized that we could make professional cheerleaders statutory employees, and then it would be clear that they had access to California labor laws.”
     Gonzalez said she has personal stake in the bill as a former college cheerleader, labor leader and attorney.
     “This law has larger ramifications when we’re talking about gender equity,” she said. “And one of the ongoing issues that seems to be growing is the misclassification of employees as independent contractors, especially with the whole Uber shared-economy push.
     “We really need to look at what the difference is between employees and independent contractors, because when you don’t classify workers correctly, they miss out on wages.”
     Gonzalez said she hopes similar legislation will be introduced in other states and eventually at the national level.
     “Or the NFL could just wake up and do the right thing,” she said. “It would be for such a little cost, compared to anything else.”
     The bill had no registered opposition, and was signed into law by Brown earlier this week.

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