Buffalo, NY (WKBW) A class action wage theft lawsuit brought by Buffalo Jills cheerleaders against the Buffalo Bills, Citadel Communications, and Stejon Productions, will proceed in New York State Supreme Court in Buffalo, after a judge's ruling to deny two attempts to dismiss the case.
Attorneys for the Buffalo Bills and Citadel Communications each filed motions to dismiss the wage theft lawsuit. Bills attorneys argued the cheerleading squad was under the control of a managing company, and had no involvement in how much cheerleaders were paid. Citadel, the operators of the squad until 2012, argued that Jills cheerleaders signed on as independent contractors, and not as employees.
Attorneys for the Buffalo Jills cheerleaders argue the women were misclassified as independent contractors, and were entitled to a minimum wage that their employers failed to pay. They also say they can prove the Bills organization "exerted control over the Jills."
Honorable Judge Timothy J. Drury ruled in favor of the Jills in court on Thursday, denying both motions to dismiss the case. Judge Drury wrote in his decision:
"The minute control that Citadel and Stejon exercised over the work of the cheerleaders supports the conclusion that they were not independent contractors but employees. The Bills insisted that Citadel and Stejon obtain the agreement from each of the cheerleaders that they were independent contractors and the Bills directed that the agreements be returned promptly to them. These facts are further indication of the control the Bill exercised over the Jills cheerleaders despite the fact that they were in the nominal employment of the subcontractors."
Stejon Productions was not involved in any motions to dismiss this case. Its president, Stephanie Mateczun, is shedding new light on her organization's decision to shut down Jills operations for the 2014 season. According to attorneys for the Jills, the Buffalo Bills had told Mateczun that they would supplement the wages of Jills cheerleaders this season. The Bills allegedly backed out when the class action wage theft suit was filed.
As a result, the Bills first preseason home game on August 23rd will be the first time in 47 years that the team will take the field in Orchard Park without the Buffalo Jills.