Several members of the NFL’s Buffalo Bills cheerleading team, known as the Buffalo Jills, have collectively filed suit against the organization and two private entities, alleging multiple violations of New York state labor laws.
The women, who were members of the Jills between 2011 and 2013, raised eight separate causes of action;
- willful failure to pay minimum wage,
- failure to pay wages in a timely manner,
- unlawful deduction from wages,
- unlawful kick-backs of wages,
- unlawful acceptance of employee gratuities,
- failure to comply with record keeping requirements of the New York Wage Theft Prevention Act,
- unjust enrichment, and
- quantum meruit.
Management of the Jills was handled by Citadel Communications Company, Ltd., who later transferred ownership and control to Stejon Production Corporation. Despite this, the Plaintiffs contend the Buffalo Bills continued to play a strong role in the management and control of the Jills.
The complaint alleges the Jills performed roughly 840 hours of unpaid work per year, an average of 20 hours per week. Further, the Jills assert that the wages they were paid fell substantially below the minimum wage required by New York state law. The complaint goes on to state that the Jills were subject to unlawful deductions and kickbacks from their appearances, unwarranted and random monetary penalizations, and were not compensated for business deductions or appearances, among other violations.
The Jills further allege that they were subject to egregious and degrading treatment while employed by the Defendants. The complaint alleges that all cheerleaders were subject to a “jiggle test,” where they would perform jumping jacks in front of representatives of the Defendants, who could scrutinize and critique the women’s appearance. The complaint also claims that the Plaintiffs were forced to endure further demeaning conduct at events sponsored by the Defendants, including being “auctioned off” to the highest bidder at golf tournaments and subjected to groping and inappropriate contact at a calendar release party.
The impact of the complaint is already being felt. The Buffalo Bills have announced they will not have cheerleaders this season, and the story has received widespread national attention. This suit, if successful, could trigger a wave of similar lawsuits nationwide, with any professional sports team that utilizes cheerleaders finding itself in the crosshairs.
By: Marcus Pringle