NFL cheerleader lawsuit update: Buffalo Jills win one against Bills

A judge in New York ruled this week that a wage lawsuit against the NFL's Buffalo Bills can continue, despite the team's claim that the cheerleaders are not its employees. Here, in a file photo, members of the Jills squad perform in 2012.
(Rick Stewart / Getty Images)

The wage theft lawsuit filed by five former members of the Buffalo Jills professional cheerleading squad got a little boost this week when a judge refused to toss the case after the Bills claimed they are not the cheerleaders’ employer.

Oh you might be, New York Supreme Court Judge Timothy Drury essentially told the team Tuesday. Drury said there was evidence to support the cheerleaders’ claim that they were, in fact, Bills employees, and only in the “nominal employment” of a pair of entertainment companies that run the squad.

The Bills had argued that the team was only involved in its cheerleading squad to guarantee the integrity of the Bills brand. (For that matter, you could say the whole football team exists to maintain brand integrity.)


Anyway, Drury said the Bills’ claim that they have nothing much to do with the cheerleaders was “premature,” noting that one of the cheerleaders, Jaclyn S., had provided an email from her supervisor telling her not just that the Bills own the Jills, but that “they are committed to helping us run an extremely viable business…they are being incredibly supportive and helpful … I will be working much more closely with the Bills.”

Next stop: depositions.

“Judge Drury’s decision denied the Bills’ scheme to insulate themselves from the illegal cheerleading operation,” said the cheerleader’s attorney Marc Panepinto. “We will now have the opportunity to prove the unlawful wage practices by the Bills and their contractors.”

After the cheerleaders filed their lawsuit, which is one of five similar cases in litigation around the country (including two against the Oakland Raiders), the Bills announced that they would suspend their cheerleading operation.

What good sports!

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