The Buffalo Jills cruised to an early lead over the Bills last week when a judge refused to toss out the case after the Bills claimed they were not the cheerleaders’ employer, Robin Abcarian reports for the Los Angeles Times.
New York Supreme Court Judge Timothy Drury said there was enough evidence to support the Jills’ claim that they were employees of the Bills, even though the Bills had claimed they were only involved with the cheerleaders to guarantee the integrity of the team’s brand.
The Bills sold management rights of the Jills to a local fast-food chain, Mighty Taco, in 1986, according to the lawsuit. A series of other managers have since controlled the Jills, who are accusing the team of demeaning them and not paying them for all the hours they worked.
“Judge Drury’s decision denied the Bills’ scheme to insulate themselves from the illegal cheerleading operation,” the cheerleader’s attorney Marc Panepinto told the LA Times. “We will now have the opportunity to prove the unlawful wage practices by the Bills and their contractors.”
The Bills passed the following statement, issued after the decision, along to Business Insider:
“The order issued today is a procedural component of the legal process and our organisation remains confident in our position in this matter. For decades, the Bills have contracted with third parties to hire, train, manage and compensate cheerleaders. We are confident that the facts developed in this matter will further support our position.”
The lawsuit filed by five former Jills claims the Bills made them pass a “jiggle test,” told them when to change their tampons, and how they should wash their “intimate areas.”
Jills also allegedly had to wear bikinis at a team golf event, where they were later auctioned off for a ride on the winners’ lap in a golf cart, or sent to the dunk tank. The lawsuit also alleged the Jills had to attend a calendar release party, where they had to perform in what amounted to a bikini show with no stage. The cheerleaders were groped and touched by members of the audience, and were not paid for the appearance, the lawsuit claims.
They even had to buy their own $US650 uniforms, according to the lawsuit.
The cheerleaders were also required to sign a contract that misclassified them as an “independent contractor,” which is illegal per New York’s labour laws, according to the lawsuit. Also the Bills, Citadel Communications, and Stejon Productions, two of the other management groups, illegally took gratuities paid to the Jills, according to the lawsuit.
The Bills reportedly suspended their cheerleading squad shortly after the lawsuit was filed.
Currently, there are five similar cases involving NFL cheerleading squads also pending litigation, including two from the Oakland Raiderettes and one each from the Cincinnati Ben-Gals, New York Jets Flight Crew, and Tampa Bay Buccaneers Cheerleaders.
These suits claim cheerleaders had to work long days with little pay, make unpaid public appearances, and were fined for having the wrong pom-poms, according to Mother Jones.
All of the lawsuits claim the cheerleaders are making unfair wages considering all of the time they put in before and during the season.
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