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Jills Rebut Lawsuit, Speak Out Against Claims, Team



(WBEN/AP) Facing a lawsuit from former Buffalo Jills cheerleaders, the squad's producer and owner is out with a statement, striking out at "personal attacks," and expressing dismay that the football club's management have distanced themselves so much from the squad that they had to suspend operations

In a prepared statement issued Wednesday morning, Jills operator Stephanie Mateczun says the squad did not shut down to punish any members of the squad, and her attorney points to a range of compensation services that are not included in claims by five former cheerleaders suing the squad.

The Jills cheerleading squad  suspended operations through at least the end of the season. The decision was made two days after five former Jills filed a lawsuit complaining they worked hundreds of hours for free, and were subjected to groping and sexual comments.

A broader, similar class action lawsuit was filed Tuesday. Previously, Mateczun had declined to comment on the lawsuit until after hiring attorneys to defend her organization

Last month's  civil action was filed in state Supreme Court and seeks unspecified back pay and legal fees. It names Mateczun's company, Stejon Productions Corp., the Bills, and the Jills' former manager, Citadel Communications Co., as defendants. Stejon took over managing the cheerleaders in 2011.

 The case against the Bills and the cheerleaders claim the Jills are wrongly classified as independent contractors and subjected to policies that violate the state's $8 per hour minimum wage law and other workplace rules.The Jills aren't paid for games or practices and have to make 20-35 appearances, most of which are unpaid, at community and charity events each season, the lawsuit said. On top of that, they have to pay $650 for their uniforms and are not reimbursed for travel or other expenses, the cheerleaders said.

“While much has been said about how the Jills were compensated, there was an extensive list of benefits given to the members of the squad that included free surgical procedures, free gym memberships, free tanning memberships, and free tickets and parking to all Buffalo Bills home games,” said attorney Dennis Vacco in the prepared statement released on Mateczun's behalf.

 Vacco also says the shut down decision was made specifically because of a lack of support from the football team.

"Unfortunately, the manner in which the Bills have handled this issue has left Stejon with no other option.  The cheerleading squad exists for the benefit of the Bills but without their support the Jills cannot continue to operate," Vacco said in the statement.

Mateczun adds: "It has also been incredibly disappointing to see the complete lack of accountability on the part of the Buffalo Bills organization as it relates to this complaint..... The organization appears content to attempt to wash their hands of any connection to their own cheerleading squad."
Owner of Stejon Productions issues statement regarding Jills
Calls lack of accountability on the part of Bills organization, ‘disappointing’
 
BUFFALO, NY- Lippes Mathias Wexler Friedman LLP would like to issue the following statement on behalf of our client, Stephanie Mateczun, owner of Stejon Productions Corp., in response to the lawsuit filed by five former Buffalo Jills cheerleaders.
 
It was only after serious and thoughtful consideration, consultation with my attorneys, and with the best interests of the women who are members of the squad in mind, that the decision was made to suspend all activities for the Jills until this legal matter can be resolved.
 
It has been difficult to read and hear the personal attacks being waged against my management company, Stejon Productions, and myself in recent days. Those attacks have been driven in part because people have been drawing conclusions without having all of the facts.
 
It has also been incredibly disappointing to see the complete lack of accountability on the part of the Buffalo Bills organization as it relates to this complaint. The Buffalo Bills own the trademark for the Jills; they control the field and everything that happens on that field, from the uniforms the cheerleaders wear to the dances they perform. Yet the organization appears content to attempt to wash their hands of any connection to their own cheerleading squad.
 
The Buffalo Bills management operates a football team valued by some at nearly $900 million. If people believe they don’t maintain influence and control over every part of their operation, including their cheerleaders, they are mistaken.
 
I look forward to the truth coming out in this matter and people seeing all sides of this issue, not just what has been reported, or worse, speculated upon by those who don’t have all of the facts in hand.
 
Attorney Dennis C. Vacco:
 
“The decision to suspend activities for the Jills was not done as a ‘punishment’ as some have suggested. The Bills refuse to operate the Jills in the same fashion as the 25 other NFL teams that have cheerleading squads do. Unfortunately, the manner in which the Bills have handled this issue has left Stejon with no other option.  The cheerleading squad exists for the benefit of the Bills but without their support the Jills cannot continue to operate.  Ironically, the Bills stepped forward weeks ago, prior to this lawsuit being filed, and offered to pay the Jills to participate in draft day events and to supplement their pay for the 2014 NFL season, but withdrew a commitment to fund the squad after the lawsuit was filed.” 
 
Vacco said he also takes exception at the compensation numbers being reported for the members of the cheerleading squad.
 
“While much has been said about how the Jills were compensated, there was an extensive list of benefits given to the members of the squad that included free surgical procedures, free gym memberships, free tanning memberships, and free tickets and parking to all Buffalo Bills home games,” Vacco said.
 
 

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Locations : Buffalo
People : Dennis C. VaccoDennis VaccoStephanie Mateczun
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