US cheerleaders take action over "jiggle test"

by Juliette Willow02 May 2014
Cheerleading isn’t quite the world of glamour and money that it may have seemed, recent lawsuits have revealed. Female cheerleaders for the Buffalo Bills and Oakland Raiders have sued their employers under misclassification and minimum wage laws, revealing employee guidelines that seem highly unusual, if not illegal.

Cheerleaders for the Buffalo Bills were subjected to weekly “Jiggle Tests”, the lawsuit revealed. Women were asked to perform jumping jacks while team coaches evaluated their bodies for jiggling fat. Too much jiggle and a cheerleader could be warned, penalised, suspended or even dismissed.

Twenty pages of guidelines instruct Bills’ cheerleaders on proper conduct, including appropriate topics to converse on, how to be diplomatic, and what sort of hair and makeup is appropriate. Where it gets extreme is when it instruct employees on who to socialize with (no Bills football players), and how to handle their intimate areas: “[Menstrual] products can be changed at least every 4 hours. Except when sleeping, they can be left in for the night.”

Despite all this, the cheerleaders were classified as independent contractors, and paid per game, meaning that if a girl was deemed too “jiggly” to play most games, she could earn as little as $150 a season. Nevertheless, they were expected to attend practices, charity events, and at least 20 other appearances per season – many of which were unpaid.

Meanwhile in California, Oakland’s Raiderettes are also suing under minimum wage laws, as well as laws that dictate that employees must be allowed to discuss their wages and must be offered meal breaks for shifts longer than eight hours. The Raiderettes were paid $125 a game in the 2013-2014 season, which comprises about nine hours’ work on game day, as well as about nine hours of rehearsals per week, and countless public appearances, which may or may not be paid. Like the Bills’ cheerleaders, they are not paid if they are deemed “too soft” in the belly to perform on game day.

The cases are proceeding through California and New York courts.


  • by Deborah Pearson 2/05/2014 12:48:33 PM

    Oh the landmines in a case like this!
    On the one hand, cheerleaders are representing a sporting club and (generally) wear uniforms that, if you're not in tip-top shape, will not be flattering. Keeping this in mind, clubs will want to ensure a certain responsibility by their cheerleaders to remain trim and toned throughout the season to represent the club in the manner intended.
    That being said, excess "jiggle" when you're wearing limited attire is probably not high on the clubs agenda so HOW the club ensures their cheerleaders stay in optimal shape needs to be handled carefully and respectfully. But when you think about it, a "jiggle" test could be viewed as completely acceptable if it were directly related to the needs of the position. ie: Competency - Promotion of the Company's Brand Image. Skill/Attribute - Retain a professional public image in keeping with the needs of the organisation. Measurement - physical "jiggle" tests will be completed on a weekly basis to ensure encumbent aesthetically demonstrates desired company image.
    Looking forward to reading how this case pans out...

  • by Origin1859 3/05/2014 12:30:08 AM

    These lawsuits are over wage and hour violations, not jiggle tests. While I do not agree with the way these women were held to weight standards, the "jiggle test" is ultametly becoming a legal straw man in the media. The only reason it's mentioned in the legal complaints is to help prove employment status. The cheerleaders are not suing over jiggle tests!

  • by Deborah Pearson 6/05/2014 8:48:21 AM

    Hi Origin. According to you, the "jiggle" tests come under employment status. Employment status is covered by misclassification therefore it forms part of what they are suing for. Congratulations, you've just contradicted yourself.

Most Read