Judge Rules that Buffalo Jills Lawsuit Can Move Forward
A judge just ruled that a lawsuit brought against the Buffalo Bills by their cheerleaders–the Buffalo Jills–is allowed to move forward. The cheerleaders are suing the NFL team for better wages and work conditions. While five former cheerleaders brought the suit, the judge’s ruling means that “all Buffalo Bills cheerleaders and ambassadors since April 2008” can join. While this lawsuit is in process, the Buffalo Jills have actually been on hiatus, and haven’t appeared at any games over the last year. But the Buffalo Jills aren’t the first cheerleaders to bring a suit against the team they cheer for–in fact they’re just one more in a growing trend.
The Buffalo Jills each made $1,800 per season, despite the fact that the team takes in a total of $256 million each year. The women claim that their compensation is well below minimum wage. They also claim that they had to attend some events for which they were not paid. The team treated them as independent contractors as opposed to employees, which is how it was able to get away with such low compensation.
Another point of contention in the lawsuit was that the women were held to an incredibly strict, and seemingly inappropriate, guidebook. The book included requirements for things like personal hygiene; for example, it told the women to change their tampons “at least every four hours.” It also instructed them what kind of soap to use, stating: “Intimate areas: Never use a deodorant or chemically enhanced product. Simple nondeodorant soap will help maintain the right PH balance.” My personal favorite is the eating recommendations, which instruct: “Do not overeat bread in a formal setting.”
At the same time that this lawsuit is being allowed to move forward, New York is considering a bill called the “Cheerleaders’ Fair Pay Act.” It would extend all the “rights, benefits and protections” to the cheerleaders that the rest of the team’s employees have.
The Buffalo Jills aren’t the first group of cheerleaders to get into this kind of showdown with the team they cheer for. Other teams that have been sued by their cheerleaders include the New York Jets, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and the Oakland Raiders.
The lawsuit won’t be decided for a while, but allowing the plaintiffs to move forward together in a class-action capacity is a big step.