Cheerleaders gaining more employment law protections

cheerleaders wearing red white and blue
A bill is on its way to the California governor’s desk that would classify football and basketball cheerleaders as employees and require their teams to pay them at least minimum wage. The bill would also require overtime pay and sick leave for professional cheerleaders in California.

The bill was pitched by a former college cheerleader and has received strong support. It requires that cheerleaders be paid for the time they spend representing their teams both during and outside of games.

All this comes after numerous teams — including the Tampa Bay Buccaneers — were sued by former cheerleaders, accused of wage theft and other illegal employment practices.

In 2014, Manouchar Pierre-Val, a former cheerleader, sued the Bucs, stating the team did not compensate its cheerleaders for all their work. She cheered for the Bucs during the 2012-2013 season and said she was paid $100 per game, but worked many more unpaid hours running clinics, practicing, going to charity events and posing for swimsuit calendars.

The Bucs agreed to pay up to $825,000 to settle this class-action lawsuit.

The Raiders paid even more in a similar lawsuit, settling with two former cheerleaders for $1.25 million. After the suit, the team changed its policy, paying cheerleaders $9 an hour, plus overtime.

These lawsuits have garnered national attention, as cheerleaders represent teams in the NFL, which is worth over $33 billion. Cheerleaders are often considered independent contractors, which is a frequently litigated issue — one facing many online-based service companies, such as Uber and Lyft.

Supporters of the bill and cheerleaders’ suits say any “independent contractor” status is a misclassification. In the lawsuits against the Raiders, an attorney dismissed the contractor status, saying the team dictated the choreography and music and set strict limits on cheerleaders.

A similar bill was proposed in New York, though Florida has not seen such a bill, yet. So while California’s bill is a step in the right direction, many more states have yet to address the wage gap and labor violations associated with cheerleading.

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