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The Buffalo Jills are celebrating an important win off the field after a New York State Supreme Court judge ruled that the cheerleaders can proceed with a class action lawsuit against the Buffalo Bills professional football team for better wages.
Justice Timothy J. Drury said a class action suit by the cheerleaders “would be a far more efficient means of litigation as opposed to a multitude of individual lawsuits,” according to the Buffalo News.
A handful of former Bills cheerleaders, who are called the Buffalo Jills, filed a lawsuit against the team in 2014 claiming that they were forced to endure degrading treatment while getting paid less than minimum wage. The women involved in the suit allegedly made just a few hundred dollars per season cheering for the NFL team.
Although the Buffalo Bills have maintained that the cheerleaders were independent contractors, not employees, and not entitled to certain wage and workplace rights, the judge denied the team’s claim. Drury noted that the women were held to a strict Code of Conduct, which governed seemingly every aspect of their lives, both on and off the field.
Examples of the strict rules the Jills were required to follow include directives on how much bread the Jills could eat in a “formal setting,” how they should talk – “Say ‘oh my goodness’ instead of ‘Oh my God'” – and even what soap they should use, according to a report in The New York Post.
A section of the cheerleaders’ 2013-14 handbook titled “General hygiene & lady body maintenance” includes the instruction, “Intimate areas: Never use a deodorant or chemically enhanced product. Simple nondeodorant soap will help maintain the right PH balance.”
The judge’s ruling allows all Jills from as far back as April 2008 to join the suit against the Bills.
In an interview with Buffalo’s ABC affiliate WKBW, Christopher Marlborough, an attorney for the cheerleaders, said he was pleased with the court’s ruling.
“The case is going to move forward on behalf of everyone,” he said. “This is a major victory.”
The Buffalo Bills released this statement to WKBW:
“The Buffalo Bills respectfully disagree with the Court’s decision. It remains our position that this case is being prosecuted by a very small number of former cheerleaders whose allegations do not accurately reflect the sentiment of all cheerleaders. We intend to appeal today’s ruling and we will continue to vigorously defend the allegations brought against us and we remain confident in our position in this matter.”
This is the latest in a growing trend of NFL cheerleaders going after their NFL teams for better wages and treatment. The Cincinnati Bengals, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Oakland Raiders and New York Jets all have faced lawsuits brought by their cheerleaders.
I don’t think the cheerleaders are asking for too much here. If an NFL team wants to have cheerleaders, then they need to pay them a fair wage, period. That said, it would be hard to determine “fair pay” for these women, considering the demeaning treatment they have to endure.
What do you think of the cheerleaders’ allegations of demeaning treatment and unfair pay? Sound off below or on our Facebook page.