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Former Buffalo Bills’ cheerleaders sue for back pay and better treatment

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On April 22, five cheerleaders formerly with the NFL’s Buffalo Bills’ franchise filed a lawsuit citing claims that they are owed compensation in the form of back pay. The cheerleaders also said in their suit that they were treated poorly during their tenure with the "Buffalo Jills." Reportedly, the cheerleaders said that they were forced to work hundreds of hours without pay while performing at the Bills’ football games and team practices, in addition to making mandatory public appearances at community and charity events “at which they were subjected to groping and sexual comments, and one said they had to take a jiggle test so their boss could see how firm their bodies were.“

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The civil suit brought forth by the five former Buffalo Jills seeks an unspecified amount of back pay plus legal fees. The Buffalo Bills and the current and former management companies for the Jills are named in the complaint, according to Fox News.

The Buffalo Jills claim in their suit that the cheerleaders are improperly classified by management as being independent contractors, which subjects the Jills to a myriad of workplace violations, including the $8 hourly minimum wage in the state of New York. In addition to not being paid to cheer at football games or mandatory public appearances, the Jills have to pay for their own uniforms, which cost $650 each. The cheerleaders also stated that they’re not compensated for expenses incurred while traveling for the team.

The time and expense, as well as rules governing their personal lives, far exceeded what they signed on for, the women said.

The lawsuit also cites "demeaning and degrading treatment," claiming that the cheerleaders were forced to dress in bikinis at a variety of public events, including a golf tournament where the Jills were "auctioned off like prizes" and subjected to "degrading sexual comments and inappropriate touching." The five former cheerleaders are only being identified by their first names and last initials and are taking advantage of a legal statute allowing them to retain their anonymity because “identification poses a risk of retaliatory physical or mental harm," according to The Huffington Post.

Alyssa U. estimated she was paid a total of $420 during the 2012-13 football season. Another cheerleader, Maria P., said she received $105.

The cheerleaders said that Stephanie Mateczun, the president of Stejon Productions Corp. and one of the two Jills’ management companies named in the complaint, controlled everything the girls did as cheerleaders, including their hair, nails and what they could post on Facebook.

"Everything from standing in front of us with a clipboard having us do a jiggle test to see what parts of our body were jiggling," cheerleader Alyssa U. said, "and if that was something that she saw, you were getting benched."

The goal of the lawsuit, according to the former Jills, is for future cheerleaders to be paid better and to be treated better. Fan reactions to the lawsuit range from suggesting that all NFL cheerleading squads unionize to ensure adequate pay, to dropping the cheerleading squads all together.

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