Radio Group Must Pay Buffalo Jills Cheerleaders $4 Mil in Unpaid Wages
More than 50 Buffalo Jills Cheerleaders will receive a portion of a $4 million settlement following an 8-year legal battle with the Jills management group, a Cumulus owned radio station in Buffalo, and the former NFL cheerleaders.
The suit, initially brought back in 2014 by Caitlin Ferrari and 5 other cheerleaders, contested that the ladies were working hundreds of hours doing appearances as "Buffalo Jills" and were only getting paid for a few dozen.
In a unique arrangement, the Jills cheerleaders were managed by 97 Rock (WGRF), which was the Bills flagship radio station during the time period. In addition to cheering at games, the Jills would make promotional appearances all over the state for sponsors and at public events. The suit claimed that because the Jills were barely paid, the Bills and 97 Rock were violating New York State Labor Laws.
According to Inside Radio, during the 2012-13 season one Jill "worked 360.5 hours during that season and was paid for only 17.5 hours. Another worked 372.75 hours and was paid for 16 hours." During the time, the radio station was owned by Citadel Broadcasting and is now owned by Cumulus.
The suit also claimed that the Jills were required to model for and sell copies of, a swimsuit calendar which they appeared in and were no compensated for. The suit, initially filed by 6 cheerleaders in 2014, was expanded into a class action lawsuit in 2016 which included Jills cheerleaders dating back to April of 2008.
Cumulus has since emerged from a bankruptcy which did not include the lawsuit, and claims it is not liable for damages, however, based on the cost of legal fees they opted to settle. In the agreement, $4 million from Cumulus will go to Jills listed in the suit and the Buffalo Bills will pay and additional $3.5 million.
Shortly after the suit was filed, the Bills dissolved the Jills cheerleading squad. Currently, the Bills still do not have cheerleaders.
At one point in the NFL, only the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders were paid, however, since the suit NFL cheerleaders are paid a salary that meets their individual state labor law requirements. The average professional NFL cheerleader in 2022 can make about $75,000 a year. In 2018, despite being paid a small salary, the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders sued the franchise for higher pay. As of last season, the Dallas Cheerleaders now make between $8 and $12 and hour and a $400 game-day taken fee.
According to the NFL, teams without cheerleaders include the "Buffalo Bills, Chicago Bears, Cleveland Browns, Green Bay Packers, New York Giants, Los Angeles Chargers, and Pittsburgh Steelers, although the Packers often use a collegiate cheerleading team at home games."