Give me a “fair!” Give me a “wage!” What’s that spell? It spells yet another wage abuse class action — and this time it’s filed by ex-Milwaukee Bucks cheerleader Lauren Herington.
Herington claims that the basketball organization doesn’t pay its cheer squad the minimum wage, choosing instead to pay a flat rate that doesn’t cover out-of-pocket expenses and doesn’t cover all hours worked.
The reported rate for the Bucks Dancers is $65 per home game, $30 for practices and $50 for special appearances. The suit claims that these amounts are supposed to cover time spent on the job in any given week, but something doesn’t add up. According to Herrington, the dancers are required to arrive at home games two-and-a-half hours before they start, practice up to ten hours a week and attend 15-20 hours of physical conditioning in order to collect their pay. On top of that, they are also required to spend time and money complying with appearance policies. Salon visits, haircuts, tanning sessions and uniform maintenance are all included in expectations, but not compensation.
This isn’t the first time a sports franchise has landed in court under the accusation of unfair wage practices either. The cheer team for the Oakland Raiders reached a settlement for just over one million dollars in 2014. The Cincinnati Bengals agreed to pay $225,000 to settle a similar class action just last month. And that’s only in sports. Wage theft and overtime cases are becoming moreandmorefrequentthesedays. (You may remember the Skywest case as a prominent example).
But this isn’t a new trend. There were just over 1,900 wage and hours cases filed in 2013, representing almost 27% of all class actions filed that year. Why do these suits continue to be filed so consistently? Why do companies put themselves in these positions? We asked class action attorney Shanon Carson of Berger Montague what he thought about the rise in wage and hour lawsuits and here’s what he had to say:
"In the past several years, the number of cases alleging wage theft and unpaid overtime has increased dramatically. There are four main reasons why. First and foremost, despite the law being clear and easy to understand, there is a segment of companies – not all – that consistently look for ways to increase profits by cutting corners, and one of the easiest corners to cut is simply not paying employees. Second, the internet has made it easier for employees not only to learn about their rights, but also to reach out for help. Third, there are a number of industries, for example, the oil and gas industry, that have engaged in widespread violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act and state wage and hour laws. As employees of companies in the particular industry begin to prosecute their rights to recover unpaid overtime, there is a chain reaction – employees who work for other companies in the same industry are likely to assert similar claims. Eventually, the whole industry is forced to come into compliance. Finally, the U.S. Department of Labor has redoubled its efforts to prosecute wage theft violations, and is bringing more cases. The government prosecutions often lead to more private cases being filed as well."
The ebb and flow of the legal world works just like this. As injustices are brought to light, people band together and force entire industries into compliance. It can take time and effort to see change on such a large scale, but the result is undoubtedly worth it.