Why This NBA Team Is Being Sued For ‘Prolific Wage Abuse’

Milwaukee Bucks cheerleaders perform at an NBA game CREDIT: AP PHOTO/MORRY GASH
Milwaukee Bucks cheerleaders perform at an NBA game CREDIT: AP PHOTO/MORRY GASH

After multiple lawsuits have been filed against National Football League (NFL) teams for paying cheerleaders less than minimum wage, one has now been filed against a team in the National Basketball Association (NBA).

Lauren Herington, a former cheerleader for the Milwaukee Bucks, filed a federal lawsuit claiming that the team engaged in “prolific wage abuse” against her and her colleagues. It says they were paid rates that amounted to between $3.50 and $4.50 an hour and that they weren’t paid time-and-a-half in overtime if they worked more than 40 hours a week. Wisconsin’s minimum wage is the same as the federal level of $7.25 an hour.

The lawsuit says the Bucks pays cheerleaders $30 per practice, $65 per home game, and $50 for each special appearance such as charity events. Yet practices and workout sessions come to 20 to 30 hours a week, and they are also required to arrive two and a half hours before the start of each game. The suit also says that cheerleaders have to spend time complying with personal appearance rules by visiting salons as well as maintaining uniforms with their own money.

“They are indentured servants with pom poms,” Herington’s lawyer Scott Andresen told Reuters.

Her lawsuit is seeking class-action status to represent all current and past dancers and cheerleaders, about 40 people, and more could join in the future.

The team could not be immediately reached for comment, although a spokesman told the Milwaukee Wisconsin Journal Sentinel, “We take these issues seriously and are looking into the matter.”

Herington’s suit comes after similar ones filed against at least five NFL teams by cheerleaders who also claim they were paid at rates amounting to less than minimum wage and denied overtime. Those suits have met with success: Cheerleaders suing the Oakland Raiders reached a $1.25 million settlement in 2014, while those suing the Tampa Bay Buccaneers got a $825,000 settlement in March.

The lawsuits have also prompted legislators to take action. A bill was signed into law in California requiring sports teams in the state to treat cheerleaders like other employees by paying them at least minimum wage and overtime as well as providing them with paid sick leave. A similar bill was proposed in New York requiring the state’s teams to pay cheerleaders minimum wage and offer them other standard workplace protections.