Perhaps following the lead of their counterparts in Cincinnati and Oakland, five former members of the Buffalo Bills cheerleading squad, known as the Jills, have sued the team, as well as the Jills' current and former management companies.
The suit alleges that compensation for hours worked amounted to less than minimum wage and that the Jills were mistreated at Bills events and subjected to demeaning scrutiny prior to games.
According to the Buffalo News, annual wages paid the five plaintiffs ranged from $105 to $1,800 — or considerably less than $8 per hour. They were expected to appear at 20 to 35 community events, including their own annual golf outing at which they had to wear bikinis, enter a dunk tank and ride in carts with event participants who had bid on the privilege. The suit further claims that prior to home games the cheerleaders were subjected to a "jiggle test," during which their fitness was evaluated as they performed jumping jacks, according to an excerpt posted at sportsillustrated.com.
Legal success may hinge on whether the Jills are deemed to be employees of the Bills or independent contractors. Though Jills members sign a statement accepting independent contractor status, one of the plaintiffs told the Buffalo News that "the team told us how to walk, talk, dress, speak and behave, both at work and on our own time." Meanwhile, the Jills were not compensated for out-of-pocket costs relating to their $650 uniforms, hair and nail treatments, and travel to out-of-town events.
The suit seeks full payment of the minimum wage for all hours worked, with interest; recovery of economic damages due to unlawful deductions and kickbacks; and recovery of gratuities.
It's been a rough week for the Bills. Earlier this week the organization reached a $3 million settlement in a lawsuit brought on by their own fans accused the team of sending too many text message alerts.