Super Bowl Lawsuit

A new California law, which was signed by Governor Jerry Brown last Wednesday, has given professional cheerleaders something to cheer about. The new measure requires pro sports teams to give their cheerleaders the same rights and privileges as their fellow employees. This means that cheerleaders can receive -- at the very least -- a minimum wage, compensation for appearing at extra events and other worker benefits.

Pro Cheerleaders Were Receiving $5 an Hour for Work

Previously, employers of cheerleaders classified them as independent contractors, which allowed employers to bypass labor laws. However, after a group of cheerleaders sued the Oakland Raiders last year, they alleged that they were receiving just $5 per hour in wages. They said that they also had to pay for a lot of things like makeup, hair salon expenses, and spend time working unpaid, which was unfair and unlawful.

According to a statement offered by assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, "Today we took an important step toward ensuring that multi-billion dollar sports teams treat cheerleaders with the same dignity and respect as every other employee who makes the game-day experience special."

Are Other Kinds of Contract Employees Any Different?

This case certainly begs the question: Are contracted employees of other firms any different from NFL cheerleaders? Clearly, the use of contracting employees is a strategy that large corporations use to bypass liability and avoid paying workers' compensation insurance, health care and retirement benefits.

During the past two years, cheerleaders from other NFL teams have sued their employers successfully, primarily citing "low pay" as a basis for relief. In the case of the Raiderettes, they received a settlement of $1.25 million in their lawsuit. The new law that protects NFL cheerleaders will be effective in 2016. Similar legislation could also be passed in New York.