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New California law gives cheerleaders something to cheer about

Everything seems big about the National Football League.

The players. The revenues. The eye-popping salaries doled out. The merchandizing. And, of course, the Super Bowl, delineated in capital letters.

It’s kind of had to ignore the cheerleaders, too. Do the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders ring a bell?

The cheerleading squads associated with every NFL team are integral cogs of those teams. They appear in specially designed uniforms. They spend many hours working on timing, rhythm, choreography and group presentations performed throughout games. They formally represent their teams at many publicity-related and charitable functions. For some people, they are undoubtedly a reason for attending games.

And yet, despite their hard work (including their practice time and outside-the-game appearances), squads across the NFL have long labored without the protection of state laws that guard workers in other industries.

A recent California labor law inked by Gov. Jerry Brown focuses squarely upon professional cheerleaders, mandating that these workers be classified as employees rather than with the tag of independent contractor that they have long labored under.

Classifying cheerleaders as independent contractors has allowed owners of professional football teams in California — in Oakland, San Francisco and San Diego, specifically — to save costs not otherwise pocketed when workers are deemed regular employees.

The new legislation now requires that California-based NFL cheerleaders be paid at least minimum wage and receive compensation for their various appearances and practice time.

The recent bill signed by the governor comes in the wake of a class action lawsuit filed last year by the cheerleading squad for the Oakland Raiders, the Raiderettes.

Squads for other teams outside California have also filed litigation alleging worker misclassification.

Source: CNN, “California cheerleaders win right to be paid and treated like regular employees,” Chris Isidore, July 17, 2015

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