Former Milwaukee Bucks cheerleader sues team over pay

MILWAUKEE -- A former Milwaukee Bucks cheerleader has sued the team, saying the flat-rate pay system dancers work under leaves them earning far less than minimum wage.

The lawsuit is believed to be the first of its kind on behalf of dancers against an NBA franchise, and it comes after several similar filings against NFL teams recently.

Lead plaintiff Lauren Herington says she and others haven't been fairly compensated for games, practices, team functions or photo shoots. She also says the team's appearance policy required mandatory workouts, regular salon visits and tanning sessions, for which the dancers weren't reimbursed.

Attorney Ryan Stephan said Thursday it's a "clear-cut example of these women being exploited and taken advantage of." He said a handful of other former Bucks dancers have expressed interest in joining the suit, which was filed last week and seeks unspecified damages, including unpaid wages and overtime pay.

Bucks spokesman Jake Suski disputed the claims Thursday, saying they present "inaccurate information that creates a false picture of how we operate."

"We treat all of our employees fairly, including our Bucks dancers, and pay them fairly and in compliance with federal and state law. We believe the lawsuit to be without merit and will contest these allegations in court," Suski said in a prepared statement.

Suski noted that the team hasn't been served with the lawsuit, though Stephan says that should happen soon.

Minimum wage in Wisconsin matches the federal rate of $7.25 an hour, but Stephan says dancers realistically earn only about half that.

Herington's attorneys are seeking class-action status to represent current and former cheerleaders from recent years, and Stephan says a decision could come on that matter in the next few weeks.