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Cheerleaders vs. Teams: the Latest Wage Lawsuits

By Christopher Coble, Esq. on October 28, 2015 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Being a pro cheerleader looks like a pretty good gig, but the more we learn about how professional sports teams treat their cheerleaders, the less fun it sounds. Most recently, the Cincinnati Ben-Gals, the same Bengals cheerleaders subjected to dehumanizing rules like "no panties" and "so slouching breasts," just reached a $255,000 settlement with the team over federal wage and hour violations.

Cheerleaders may now officially be employees, but they aren't getting compensated like their male athletic counterparts just yet. And in some cases, they're not even making minimum wage.

Sis-Boom-Bah, Sue the Boss!

Here's just a quick recap of recent cheerleader litigation:

Lauren Herington filed the suit against the Bucks in federal court, alleging she was paid less than $3 an hour. The federal minimum wage is $7.25. Her case has become a rallying cry for NBA cheerleaders looking for fair pay and better working conditions.

Cheerleader Workarounds

Many professional sports franchises attempt to skirt wage and hour laws by classifying cheerleaders as independent contractors rather than employees. The problem is that one of the defining characteristics of employees is the amount of control employers have over their work and working conditions. And if cheerleaders' stories about rules regulating everything from nail polish to washing intimate areas are to be believed, they are far from independent contractors.

So next time you head out to the game, remember that the cheerleaders getting you to root for your team also need someone rooting for them in their battle for fair pay and humane working conditions.

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