California is leading the way in a major legal battle to obtain minimum wage for National Football League cheerleaders. A new bill has been sent to the governor to reverse the misclassification and wage violations that have been plaguing NFL cheerleaders for years. The legislative change comes in response to a lawsuit brought by Oakland Raiders cheerleaders, alleging that the women were not considered true team employees and were not paid for crucial work-related tasks.
That lawsuit, along with at least three others throughout the nation, argued that cheerleaders were not paid for mandatory activities including public appearances and practices. The Raiderette cheerleading squad said individual cheerleaders were only paid about $1,250 per season -- an average of less than $5 per hour, depending on the number of outside events. The team had argued that the women were receiving side benefits such as exposure to promote their modeling careers, but attorneys for the plaintiffs rejected that claim. After all, they said, the quarterback of the team also receives "exposure" every time he plays, but he is still paid a fair wage.
In an even more egregious case, cheerleaders for the Buffalo Bills in New York were not paid at all for their season. Further, those women had to purchase their own uniforms and essentials such as game-day makeup.
Changes in California law would mean an entirely new pay structure that prevents such employees from being undercompensated. As an added benefit, cheerleaders would also be entitled to overtime and sick leave under the new provisions, California legislators say the law is a step in the right direction, but existing wage law may have already addressed the team's failures to fairly compensate their employees. However, the legislation could have wide-reaching effects for teams that are already required to follow state and federal employment laws.
No one should have to suffer through being paid less than minimum wage simply because they do a job they enjoy. These cheerleaders deserve to be fairly compensated. Employers who choose to violate wage laws in California could be subject to civil and criminal penalties.
Source: The Tampa Tribune, "California bill would require NFL cheerleaders to get minimum wage," Associated Press, July 01, 2015