Former Bucks dancer suing the team for wage abuse

Suit could be the first of many for NBA

Bucks Logo A former Milwaukee Bucks dancer is suing the team claiming she and the other dance and cheerleading squads are paid sub-minimum wages.
The suit, filed Thursday in Milwaukee federal court by Lauren Herington, is the first of its kind filed against the National Basketball Association. There will likely be more suits filed against NBA teams as cheerleaders and dancers across the country have begun raising the issue of fair pay, said Ryan Stephan, one of Herington’s attorneys with Stephan Zouras law firm in Chicago.

Five National Football League teams – the Buffalo Bills, Oakland Raiders, New York Jets, Cincinnati Bengals and Tampa Bay Buccaneers – have been sued over underpayment of cheerleaders. The Buccaneers paid $825,000 to settle its lawsuit in March with 94 cheerleaders.

Stephan believes the NBA and NFL have taken advantage of the women’s’ lifelong dreams of being professional dancers and their youth.

“In many cases it’s not unlike having an unpaid internship, where younger workers agree to be unpaid to try to further themselves even though the law doesn’t permit that,” Stephan said. “Obviously the Milwaukee Bucks does have plenty of money to pay minimum wage and overtime.”

Jake Suski, spokesman for the Bucks could not be reached for comment.

Bucks dancers perform at home games, make appearances at corporate functions, charity events and community events and appear in an annual swimsuit calendar. They are required to arrive 2.5 hours before home games, practice five to 10 hours per week and work out 15 to 20 hours a week, according to the lawsuit. In a non-playoff year, Bucks have 41 home games.

They are also required to pay for routine salon visits, tanning sessions and uniform maintenance.

For their work, dancers are paid a flat rate of $65 per home game, $30 for practices and $50 for special appearances.

Herington alleges she has been paid extremely low, sub-minimum wages by the Bucks and far less than federal and Wisconsin minimum wage requirements.

Herington is seeking class action status to represent all Bucks dancers and cheerleaders from current and the past three seasons, which would represent approximately 40 people. Herington, 21, of Decatur, Ill., was one of the 18 Milwaukee Bucks Dancers during the 2013-’14 season.

Stephan said he hasn’t calculated specific damages the women will be seeking.

“The role these women play really contributes to the overall game experience,” Stephan said. “The Milwaukee Bucks themselves call them ambassadors for the program. The fact they are not even paid minimum wage is really remarkable.”

Because of the recent attention cheerleaders have raised regarding wage abuse in the NFL, California is considering legislation that would require cheerleaders to be paid at least minimum wage and overtime and sick leave if they work for professional sports teams in that state. A similar bill was also introduced in New York.

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