Former Milwaukee Bucks Cheerleader Files Wage Payment Lawsuit
A former Milwaukee Bucks cheerleader has officially filed a wage payment lawsuit against the team. While many NBA stars and coaches earn millions of dollars, the former cheerleader says that, with all her working hours and personal expenses, she and her fellow cheerleaders earned less than minimum wage.
Lauren Herington filed the lawsuit in federal court in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, stating that the wages paid to the Bucks cheerleaders violated the Fair Labor Standards Act. More specifically, the allegations include a contention that the Bucks paid them less than minimum wage on average, and pressured them to work more than 40 hours per week.
Herington is the first NBA cheerleader to sue her employer, although many current and former NFL cheerleaders are pursuing wage payment lawsuits against their employers for the same charges.
Herington contends that during the 2013 to 2014 season she spent hours preparing and performing, but was paid only $65 dollars per home game, $30 for practices and $50 for special appearances. She claims that she was paid an average of $3 to $5 an hour for the time she worked, well below Wisconsin’s $7.25 minimum wage. On busier weeks, hourly wages fell below $3 per hour.
“They didn’t pay for the haircuts, the nails, the tanning,” her attorney said. “We’re dealing with women who are 19, 20, 21 years old. They really don’t have the resources to pay for those things.”
Herington’s contract with the Bucks required certain physical enhancements at her own expense, including: special cleaning of her uniform, tanning sessions, false eyelashes, regular manicures and hair appointments at Salon Nova and Lash Boutique – highlights and dye treatments which often exceed $100.
“The lawsuit presents inaccurate information that creates a false picture of how we operate,” Jake Suski, a spokesman, wrote in an email. “The Bucks value the contributions our dancers make to the team. We treat all of our employees fairly, including our Bucks dancers, and pay them fairly and in compliance with federal and state law.”
In SC, the South Carolina wage payment act protects workers who are not paid all wages earned.
California lawmakers have already taken steps to redefine how cheerleaders are treated by that state’s professional sports teams. Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez of California introduced a bill signed by Gov. Jerry Brown last July, which designated professional cheerleaders as employees entitled to earn at least minimum wage, along with benefits including sick leave and workers’ compensation.
“This shouldn’t have to be done state by state,” said Ms. Gonzalez regarding her legislation in California. “This should be clear to the N.B.A., N.F.L. and N.H.L.”