Buffalo Bill cheerleaders join NFL push-'em-back, sue over wages

Wed Apr 23, 2014 2:22pm EDT
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By Curtis Skinner

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Five former Buffalo Bills cheerleaders have sued the New York state football team, claiming it violated state wage laws by forcing them to work hundreds of hours without pay, cover their own travel expenses and spend hundreds of dollars on uniforms.

The lawsuit, filed Tuesday in New York State Supreme Court by the former Buffalo Jills, is the third case this year brought against National Football League teams claiming wage violations. It follows similar suits brought by members of the Oakland Raiderettes and Cincinnati Ben-Gals.

The five cheerleaders, who worked between 2010 and 2014, said in the complaint that the team and two companies that managed the cheer squad took unlawful deductions from their wages (including the cost of uniforms), forced them to work up to 840 unpaid hours a year - the equivalent of 21 40-hour weeks - at practices and promotional events and made them pay $650 for their uniforms.

They also said the team levied penalties on cheerleaders who failed the "jiggle test," a visual inspection of a dancer's body fat.

"So many of us dreamed of being Buffalo Jills since we were little girls. When I made the team, I thought I was starting the best chapter of my life. I soon realized it wasn't a dream come true at all, but a nightmare," said a plaintiff who gave her name as Alyssa U, in a statement.

The cheerleaders' full names were also omitted from the court filing in an effort to protect them from potential retaliation.

According to the complaint, Alyssa U was paid $420 for all of her work as a Buffalo Jill during the 2012-2013 football season. That same year, Bills defensive end Mario Williams was paid about $16 million, the eighth-highest average annual salary in the NFL, according to Forbes.

"We are aware of this lawsuit, and it is our organizational policy not to comment on pending litigation," the team said in a statement.   Continued...