Buffalo Jills Lawsuit To Proceed

07.02.14 | Sarah Harnisch

Tuesday, a judge denied the Bills' attempt to dismiss a lawsuit brought forth by five former Buffalo Jills cheerleaders.

The women are suing the Bills, along with the current and former operators of the Jills, for unfair compensation.

"They feel vindicated in the fact that the judge saw through the attempt to dismiss the case, and they would like the Bills to step up and do the right thing," says attorney Marc Panepinto.

Panepinto is representing the five women. The lawsuit alleges the women were not even paid minimum wage as Jills.

The women were not available to speak with us Tuesday, but Panepinto was. His sister, who is not part of the lawsuit, was a Jill in the late 80s and early 90s.

"I told her back then, you're getting treated wrong. You need to be paid for the work and the demands that you have on you," he says.

Since the lawsuit was filed this spring, the Jills have suspended operations.

Tuesday's decision means the discovery process will move forward, and both sides, including the Bills, will be required to produce documents and answers.

"They crafted this whole agreement to try to push off responsibility to Citadel and Stejon, and I mean we produced emails that show that Citadel and Stejon considered the Bills to own the Jills. And so, the judge saw what it was really for and it was an attempt to escape responsibility," says Panepinto.

In his ruling the judge said, "... there is at least a question of fact as to whether the agreement could legitimately treat the Plaintiffs as independent contractors and whether it is invalid for failure to specify the amount of the employees' compensation."

To help increase wages, some of the women are talking about forming a union. Panepinto says it would likely be a city-by-city effort to unionize.

"All of the men involved in the NFL are represented. There's no reason the women shouldn't have a league-wide organization to set minimum standards. That's all these young women want, and I think there's the beginning of that dialogue," he says.

The team statement issued by the Bills Tuesday night says, "The order issued today is a procedural component of the legal process and our organization remains confident in our position in this matter. For decades, the Bills have contracted with third parties to hire, train, manage and compensate cheerleaders. We are confident that the facts developed in this matter will further support our position."