AB 202 would ensure cheerleaders for NFL and other professional sports teams are treated as employees under the law
SACRAMENTO – (Wednesday, April 8, 2015) – A bill by California State Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego) to better protect cheerleaders of professional sports from workplace abuses and bring equity to the multibillion-dollar professional sports landscape by treating them teams as employees under California law was passed by the Assembly Committee on Labor and Employment today.
AB 202 would explicitly require that professional sports teams provide cheerleaders with the same rights and benefits as other employees, protecting against the sort of financial and personal abuses that have been reported throughout the country, with the highest profile disputes involving the Raiderette cheerleaders that work for the Oakland Raiders franchise of the National Football League.
“AB 202 simply demands that any professional sports team – or their chosen contractor – treat the women on the field with the same dignity and respect that we treat the guy selling beer,” said Gonzalez, a former high school and collegiate cheerleader.
News reports and lawsuits detail that, in addition to sub-minimum wage pay, cheerleaders of professional teams have been forced to spend thousands of dollars in reimbursed costs on travel and personal appearance as well as work unpaid overtime – practices that would be illegal under the law but were found to be commonplace pressures on teams’ cheerleaders despite the tremendous profits being gained by the teams they cheered for.
Caitlin Yates shared her experience as a Raiderette since 2010 at today’s committee hearing, saying that the team did not regularly pay its cheerleaders, withheld their overtime pay and did not pay even a minimum wage. In a lawsuit she brought against the Raiders earlier this year, Yates alleges that cheerleaders were benched without pay when it was perceived they gained weight; spent up to $4,000 annually in unreimbursed costs to prepare for Raiderette appearances; performed when injured out of fear of being fined or fired; and were forced into situations where they were subject to sexual harassment.
“When I first started working as a Raiderette, I was just happy to make the squad and support my team. However, over time I realized that the way I was being treated was unfair,” Yates told the committee. “I’ve talked to other cheerleaders from other teams. There are some teams out there who don’t treat their cheerleaders as employees or pay their cheerleaders a fair wage. We are professionals who deserved to be paid fairly no matter what team we play for.”
Attorneys for Yates say the practice is widespread among professional teams beyond the Raiders.
AB 202 was approved by the committee on a 4-2 vote, with Assemblymembers Roger Hernández, Kevin McCarty, Evan Low and Kansen Chu voting in support and Assemblymembers Matthew Harper and Jim Patterson opposed. The bill will next be considered by the Assembly Committee on Arts, Entertainment, Sports, Tourism and Internet Media later this month.
For more information on AB 202 or to interview Assemblywoman Gonzalez, contact Evan McLaughlin at (916) 319-2080 or (619) 850-2790.
Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez represents the 80th Assembly District, which includes Chula Vista, National City and the San Diego neighborhoods of City Heights, Barrio Logan, Paradise Hills, San Ysidro and Otay Mesa. For more information, visit http://asmdc.org/members/a80/.