NFL cheerleaders win class action certification

Why should you care if NFL teams are misclassifying their cheerleaders as independent contractors.

CNN is reporting that cheerleaders for the Buffalo Bills can proceed with a class action lawsuit against the team. The main issue involves alleged misclassification of employees as independent contractors. This led to unfair pay and less workplace protections.

NFL cheerleaders from around the country have been filing similar lawsuits. California has already passed legislation ensuring cheerleaders are classified as employees and paid minimum wage.

Cheerleaders who are classified as independent contractors do not get protection under workers’ compensation law. They are on their own for medical and wage loss if they get hurt.

We applaud these woman for standing up for their legal rights. Employee misclassification is a serious problem. Here is why you should care about this litigation and other cases that affect workers’ compensation nationally.

Michigan law

We deal with employee misclassification on a regular basis in workers’ compensation. Employers attempt to game the system for their financial benefit. Here is the confusing mess that has become Michigan law.

Michigan defines an employee as every person performing service in the course of the trade, business, profession, or occupation of an employer at the time of the injury, if the person in relation to this service does not maintain a separate business, does not hold himself or herself out to and render service to the public, and is not an employer subject to this act. MCL 418.161(1) (n).

The Michigan Court of Appeals convened a special panel and determined that all three criteria must be met before an individual gives up his or her employee status. The Michigan Supreme Court reversed finding that failure to satisfy just one of the three criteria will exclude an individual from being an employee under the WDCA. Auto-Owners Insurance Company v All Star Law Specialists Plus Inc.

More confusion resulted when the WDCA was amended by the legislature in 2011. Language was added saying services are employment if performed by an individual whom the Michigan Administrative Hearing System (MAHS) determines to be in an employer-employee relationship using the 20-factor test in IRS revenue ruling 87-41.

The U.S. Court of Appeals has now weighed in on the issue finding the amendatory language did not replace the older test but merely supplemented it. This seems to create a hybrid analysis. See Max Trucking, LLC. v. Liberty Mutual Insurance Corporation.

We encourage anyone denied workers’ compensation to contact an attorney. Just because your employer says you are an independent contractor does not make it so. You can thank NFL cheerleaders for helping to bring this issue to the forefront.

Michigan Workers Comp Lawyers never charges a fee to evaluate a potential case. Our law firm has represented injured and disabled workers exclusively for more than 35 years. Call (855) 221-2667 for a free consultation today.

Related information:

Employee? Independent Contractor? Who really knows?

Photos courtesy of Creative Commons, by Brian J. McDermott.

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