The cheerleaders allege the team is paying them below minimum wage, along with committing inappropriate contact, making degrading comments and treating them in a demeaning fashion. The Bills are not the first team to have action taken against them by their cheer team, with the Cincinnati Bengals and Oakland Raiders already having dealt with this issue.
Underpaid & unpaid
In the lawsuit, it is alleged the Bills did not reimburse business expenses, unlawfully took gratuities and kick-backs from the Jills, and did not always make payments to the cheerleaders in a timely fashion. The Jills also say they were not paid for any of their practice time, which averaged to approximately eight hours per week.
Of the 20-35 charity and community events the Jills were involved in, most were unpaid by the team.
Each individual cheerleader was paid a different amount. In 2012-13, Jaclyn S. was paid $806.00 for all of her work. For that same campaign, Alyssa U. was paid $420.00. Additionally, Maria P. was cut a check for $105.00 and Melissa M. received $210.00 for the aforementioned 2012-13 season.
It is approximated by the plaintiffs that each woman works, on average, 20 hours per week unpaid as a Jill. All told, each cheerleader is believed to work 840 unpaid hours each year for the Bills. The New York State minimum wage from July 24, 2009 to Dec. 31, 2013 was $7.25 before being raised to $8.00 in 2014. It is alleged that the Bills paid well below that amount.
The team also made each girl pay for her uniform, a cost of approximately $650.00, per the lawsuit. If the team had an event for the Jills out of Buffalo, they were allegedly not reimbursements for cost such as gas or hotels. When the Jills calendars came out, each girl was required to buy 50-75 at $10 each, and sell them on their own time to recoup the money.
Additionally, the annual Jills golf tournament was a cost to the cheerleaders. According to the lawsuit, the Bills had the cheerleaders sell four tickets of $125.00 each on their own time. If the girl could not do it, she was subject to personal financial loss.
Demeaning & degrading treatment
One of the cheerleaders, known as Maria P., discussed exactly what some of her problems are with the team. She mentioned being touched during a golf outing and being made to be put in a dunk tank at the event in a bikini. She also talked about being auctioned as a prize at the event.
Within the lawsuit, the document states that Jills were then mandated to sit with the person who won their auction, many times on the winner's lap due to a lack of seating in the golf cart. At this time, some Jills were subject to inappropriate touching and sexual comments.
There was also "The Man Show" at the Niagara Seneca Casino, in which the Jills had to sport revealing attire and/or bikinis for the mostly male crowd. Again, this led to alleged inappropriate sexual conduct.
The Bills also held a calendar release party, with the Jills once again wearing bikinis. The girls were not paid and had to walk in close proximity to the patrons, leading to alleged groping at the "Lava" nightclub at the Turning Stone Casino and Resort.
Then there is the "Jiggle test" for the cheerleaders. The lawsuit clarified the meaning of that, per the piece:
In addition, the Jills were subjected to weekly "physique evaluations" during which defendants' representatives tested the Jills' bodies for "jiggling." During the "Jiggle Test" defendants scrutinized the women's stomach, arms, legs, hips, and butt while she does jumping jacks. The physique evaluations largely determine whether or not any particular Jill would be allowed to perform at the Bills' next home game. Jills that failed to meet defendants' physical standards received warnings, and in some cases were penalized, suspended or dismissed.
There were also plenty of requirements on how the girls could dress, walk, talk and act both during work hours and in their personal lives. Jills are expected to have a french manicure or natural nail polish only, along with specific hair colors and styles. If one of the girls wanted to change her hair, it needed to be approved, per the lawsuit.
This is another embarrassing moment in the recent history of the Bills. The team has suffered through a miserable 15 seasons, not making the playoffs since 1999. Buffalo has not enjoyed a sustained run of competitive football since the early 1990's, when the team went to four consecutive Super Bowls, only to lose them all.