Ex-Milwaukee Bucks Dancers Object to Pay

     MILWAUKEE (CN) – Taking a page from the NFL cheerleaders’ playbook, a former Milwaukee Bucks dancer is suing the franchise for paying her and her teammates less than the minimum wage.
     Lauren Herington filed a federal class action lawsuit against the basketball team on Thursday, claiming Bucks dancers are paid a flat rate of $65 per home game, $30 per practices, $50 per special appearance, and $0 per 15-20 hours weekly of mandatory workouts.
     Scott Andresen, of Chicago-based Andresen & Associates PC, said that amounts to an hourly wage of between $3 and $4 an hour for each Bucks dancer.
     “They’ve got as much passion and dedication as the person on the field or the people in the front office, and yet they’re paid a fraction of what the individuals working at the concession stand or directing traffic in the parking lot are making,” he said in a phone interview Friday.
     The Bucks have dominated local and national news in recent months due to a debate over spending $250 million in tax dollars on a new arena in downtown Milwaukee. The proposed expenditure is currently advancing thanks to a recent vote by the Milwaukee Common Council.
     The plan’s proponents, which include Republican Gov. Scott Walker, claim the expenditure was necessary to keep a tax-generating franchise in Wisconsin’s largest city, while opponents point to deficiencies in community sports facilities and hundreds of vacant homes as a better use of the money.
     The Bucks, whose owners will put up $250 million for the new arena, also did not compensate its dancers for time and money spent maintaining “‘image’ requirements,” including dry cleaning their uniforms and “salon visits,” Herington claims.
     “Defendants knew, and were at all times aware, of the above-mentioned violations,” the complaint states. “The conduct alleged above reduced defendants’ labor and payroll costs.”
     Any overtime the dancers work was also not compensated at the legally required one-and-a-half times the regular rate of pay, either, Herington says – the Bucks, in fact, did not keep any records of actual hours worked.
     Similar lawsuits against NFL teams have led to changes in wage law and cash settlements. Most notably, the Raiderettes won a $1.25 million settlement from the Los Angeles Raiders, and the state of California passed a law classifying professional cheerleaders as employees who must be provided the required protections and paid minimum wage and overtime.
     Andresen said he expects the payout for the Bucks dancers to be in the same range as the Raiderettes’, and while they are not actively pursuing legislation in Wisconsin, they would support it and cooperate with any efforts to pass it.
     Herington left the Bucks dancers partly due to wages, but also because of abusive behavior by a coach, Andresen said.
     “Let’s just say that she had a coach that made life only slightly above the 12th layer of hell,” he said, adding that several other dancers experienced the same treatment but declining to give further information.
     Herington seeks compensatory and liquidated damages, a 50 percent increase of wages due and unpaid
     The Bucks did not immediately return a request for comment, but told other local news outlets that they “take these issues seriously,” and will review the complaint once it is served.

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