A court dismissal Tuesday of a lawsuit brought about by the Buffalo Bills paves the way for their cheerleading squad to sue the team and other parties over pay and working conditions.
Supreme Court Justice Timothy Drury dismissed the Bills' request for dismissal in a case brought against the team by five former Buffalo Jills. The ex-cheerleaders' lawsuit claims the ladies were required to work for less than minimum wage, were subjected to groping sexual comments, and were told how to walk, talk and wash.
The Bills have not managed the cheerleading squad since 1986 and, therefore, should not be part of the lawsuit, the team's motion alleged. But the judge feels the team may have more control than it lets on.
"For decades, the Buffalo Jills trademark has been licensed to independent third parties who have assumed the responsibility for the selection, management, training, scheduling and compensation of the cheerleaders," a statement from the team said. "We responded to these allegations as part of the legal process and remain confident in out position in this matter."
The Jills maintain the team has control over the cheerleading squad in spite of the contractual status.
"The Buffalo Bills own the trademark for the Jills," Stephanie Mateczun, director of the Jills by way of the Stejon Production Corporation, said in a statement. "They control the field and everything that happens on that field, from the uniforms the cheerleaders wear to the dances they perform. Yet the organization appears content to attempt to wash their hands of any connection to their own cheerleading squad. The Buffalo Bills management operates a football team valued by some at nearly $900 million. If people believe they don’t maintain influence and control over every part of their operation, including their cheerleaders, they are mistaken."
Stejon and Citadel Broadcasting, which ran the Jills before Stejon acquired the contract, are also named in the former Jills' suit. Citadel made a similar request for dismissal that was also denied.
The Jills have suspended operations indefinitely as the lawsuit makes its way through the courts.