California Assemblywoman takes aim at NFL wage theft

Currently, California employers are required to pay workers a minimum hourly wage of $9.00 per hour. While many argue that the state's minimum wage should be much higher, California ranks fourth among all 50 states for having one of the highest minimum wages. Despite this fact, attempting to support oneself much less a family on today minimum wage is nearly impossible.

Despite minimum wage laws, some California employers fail to pay workers wages to which they are entitled. Cases involving wage theft often include workers who are not paid for hours worked or overtime hours. Additionally, employers who engage in acts of wage theft also often misclassify employees as contractors in an attempt to avoid paying taxes and providing benefits.

Recently California Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez introduced a bill that would benefit professional cheerleaders in the state by ensuring they are classified as employees and not contractors. The bill follows on the heels of recent lawsuits by several NFL cheerleader teams, including the Oakland Raiders, which detail hours of time spent at practice and special appearances in which cheerleaders were required to participate, but not paid.

Gonzalez, who is a former colligate cheerleader, accused NFL teams of exploiting the talents of their cheerleaders "without providing even the most basic workplace protections like a minimum wage." Currently, NFL teams often use third-party employers to hire cheerleaders as contractors. Under the bill proposed by Gonzalez, cheerleaders would be classified as employees and therefore entitled to the rights and benefits such a designation provides.

Employers who fail to pay workers minimum wage are breaking law. Los Angeles area workers who have suffered wage theft would be wise to discuss their case with an employment law attorney who can provide legal advice and help in the recovery of back pay and overtime wages.

Source: California State Assembly Democratic Caucus, "CA Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez Proposes Bill to Provide Professional Sports Cheerleaders With Employee Rights," Jan. 29, 2015

National Conference of State Legislatures, "State Minimum Wages: 2014-2015 Minimum Wage By State," 2015

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