In a sport where a professional player is paid millions of dollars for a single season, you would assume that a professional cheerleader would earn at least a living wage, but the reality is that some teams pay their cheerleaders less than $1,000 per season, expect them to make appearances for free and fine them for minor errors such as bringing the wrong pom-poms to rehearsal. A new California law aims to change that, and the trend may be catching in other states.
Raiderettes Lead the Way
It all started when the Oakland Raiderette cheerleaders filed a wage-theft lawsuit. The lawsuit alleged that they were only paid $1,250 per season, which amounted to $5.00 an hour, less than minimum wage. The lawsuit was resolved with a $1.25 million settlement to be distributed among dozens of Raiderettes who worked for the team over a four year period. A victory, but a very small one when you consider what an individual player makes for just one season.
After the lawsuit was filed, Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez introduced a bill that would require sports teams to treat cheerleaders as employees rather than contractors. AB202 was signed into law on July 15, 2015 and will take effect in 2016. It provides cheerleaders with overtime pay, sick leave, and other labor protections already enjoyed by other team staff.
The Raiderettes supported passing the new law, but say they never were independent contractors and should have been treated as employees to begin with.
After the Buffalo Jills filed a similar lawsuit in New York, a bill was introduced in that state that would also require minimum wage and other employee protections for professional cheerleaders. The Jills' suit also alleges sexual harassment. Several other groups of cheerleaders have filed labor lawsuits in recent years.
If you believe that you have been a victim of wage theft or sexual harassment, please call the New Jersey employment attorneys of Lenzo & Reis, LLC, at 973-845-9922 or email us today for a free case evaluation.