Five former NFL cheerleaders for the Buffalo Bills are suing the team for alleged violation New York State labor laws by paying the woman less than mandated $8 minimum wage.
The ex-cheerleaders, called the Jills, said the team “exploited the women” by not paying them/underpaying them for events like game day performances, practices two times a week, and up to 35 corporate events. The Jills are also required to attend six annual events on behalf of the team. Their work for most of those activities was uncompensated, the lawsuit alleges, calculating that Jills worked for free up to 20 hours per week — or 840 hours of unpaid work per person per year. Some women took home as little as $1,800 in pay a year from their Jills job! Yet they still had to pay for their own uniforms, out-of-town travel, hair and nails.
The lawsuit also alleges the team took out deductions in pay if a Jill couldn’t pass the “jiggle test” (which, yes, is exactly what is sounds like). The Jills also allege degrading treatment, such as being required to wear bikinis at a golf tournament and a swimsuit calendar release party and to be placed in a dunk tank. They also claimed they were subjected to “sexual comments and inappropriate touching by some of those in attendance,” according to the Buffalo News.
The dispute mainly focuses on the contracts the Jills signed upon hiring, which stipulating they were “independent contractors.” But lawyers for the women said the cheerleaders were most definitely not “independent contracts,” as they agreed through their contracts to follow certain team policies in their non-work hours. “If you are under the control of an entity, we can call them your employer and you’re an employee,” explained a Jills lawyers.
A former cheerleader for the Jills, who went by “Maria P” in the Buffalo News, said her time on the team was a huge disappointment to her childhood dream to be an NFL cheerleader:
“I’ve been a Bills fans my entire life. To be able to cheer them on in front of 80,000 fans was a dream of mine since I was a child. That dream was taken advantage of by the Bills. I could not go back because of the harassment and the way we were treated. I signed up to be a cheerleader, not whatever you want to call that. Cheerleading was my passion.”
In response to the lawsuit, the director of the Buffalo Jills has suspended all activities for the 35 cheerleaders currently on the team. The team has not yet responded to inquiries from the press.
The Buffalo Jills’ lawsuit comes after a similar one two months ago from an Oakland Raiders cheerleader on behalf of the Raiderettes and another on behalf of cheerleaders for the Cincinnati Bengals. Cheerleaders’ union, anyone?
Email me at Jessica@TheFrisky.com. Follow me on Twitter.
[Image via Getty]