Permanently injured Cirque performers make do with workers' comp
Athletes who perform with Cirque du Soleil risk their physical health for their performances, but they are usually treated like ordinary workers when they are injured.
An analysis by the Wall Street Journal found that Cirque’s Ka show in Las Vegas ranked 79th in a list of 52,000 most dangerous workplaces compiled in 2011 by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Its injury rate in 2012 was four times that of professional sports teams, according to the Wall Street Journal. (Cirque says it has since improved its safety checks.)
Yet Cirque performers are treated as employees who can receive workers’ compensation, which generally limits their ability to sue and provides limited compensation for permanent disabilities, according to this companion Wall Street Journal story (sub. req.). Other professional athletes, on the other hand, often receive full salaries after an injury throughout the term of their multiyear contracts.
The newspaper interviewed Natasha Hallett, a Cirque performer in Florida who broke 19 bones after she had failed to set up her harness correctly and a colleague didn’t catch the error in a safety check. She was making $150,000 a year at the time, but her compensation dropped to about $2,000 a month for the two years she received workers’ compensation before she hit a payout cap.
She was offered $45,000 for her permanent ankle injury, but disputed the amount and received $170,000. The amount is considered a large payout in Florida.