Former Jills cheerleaders sue team over low wages, allege 'degrading' treatment
A group of five former Buffalo Jills cheerleaders has filed suit against the Buffalo Bills, saying the football team exploited them by failing to pay them in accordance with New York State's minimum wage laws. Also named as defendants in the civil case are Stejon Productions Corporation, the current company that manages the Jills, and Citadel Communications, whose 97 Rock radio station is the former manager of the Jills.
The law firm of Dolce Panepinto, which represents the Jills, cites the extensive work the cheerleaders have to do on game day, as well as community events, as many as hundreds of hours per year, with pay rates below the then-state minimum of $8 per hour.
"The small amounts of compensation that the plaintiffs received are nowhere near the minimum wage," senior partner Frank Dolce told WBFO News.
One cheerleader, Maria P., said they were told by the team "how to walk, talk, dress, speak, and behave," both during working hours and on their own time, and were subject to degrading treatment at some events, such as the annual Jills Golf Tournament and their Swimsuit Calendar release party.
Dolce says based on accounts, the former cheerleaders were subject to what he calls "undignified" tests.
"They call it the 'jiggle test.' They would have to move parts of their bodies to see what parts jiggled and whether they were satisfactory in the 'jiggle test,'" Dolce says.
Another plaintiff, Alyssa U., called the situation "a nightmare."
"We were the laughing stock of NFL cheerleaders. We deserve to be compensated just like everyone else. This has gone on far too long. It's time we took a stand for what's right," she said in a statement.
The Jills are the third group of NFL cheerleaders to file lawsuits against their teams for similar reasons, after Oakland Raiders and Cincinnati Bengals cheering squads did the same. The former cheerleaders are seeking compensation.
A Bills spokesman said the team does not comment on pending litigation.