Dancers Are Making Big Bucks … in America’s Courtrooms!

Dancers all over the U.S. have been suing strip clubs to be recognized as employees instead of independent contractors.

According to Myrtle Beach Online, as many as 1,000 dancers in South Carolina strip clubs could be entitled to back pay from the strip clubs where they’ve worked. A dozen dancers filed suit in federal court against three clubs in Greenville and Columbia, and U.S. District Judge Joseph Anderson agreed to certify the suit as a “class action” suit, which means other dancers (as many as 1,000, according to the attorneys) could be solicited to join the case.

For the past 25 years, cases like this have been brought to courts in various jurisdictions in the U.S., but often these cases have gotten little support from the majority of dancers.

Many dancers enjoy the freedom of making their own hours, coming and going as they please, and taking time off whenever they want, freedoms they fear they would lose if they were classified as employees. More and more dancers, however, are changing their minds on this issue because of the way clubs have been treating them.

LawyersandSettlements.com discusses a number of these cases in various states. Dancers at Rick’s Cabaret in NYC won a case like this in 2009, and Rick’s was required to hire dancers as employees and pay them minimum wage. A similar suit was recently filed in California by dancers at the Pink Poodle in San Jose.

In a recent case in Atlanta, Georgia, dancers at Foxy Lady’s allege they were not independent contractors as they were assigned specific work schedules, specific times and manners for dancing, regulations for attire and set prices for dances, and were charged fines or fees for being late for work or violating any of Foxy Lady’s rules, as well as being required to attend mandatory meetings without pay.

According to the Milwaukee Wisconsin Journal Sentinel, Elizabeth Mays, a dancer in Wisconsin, filed a similar suit recently, alleging that at the 4 Mile Gentlemen’s Club in La Crosse, the owners have control over dancers’ work schedules, what clothing they wear, the prices charged for their work, which customers they’re allowed to serve, and the types of dancing allowed. Dancers were also required to pay a fee for each dance performed and share their earnings with bartenders and bouncers. Club owners imposed penalties of up to $50 for being late to a shift.

“There were plenty of nights we went home with less money than we came in with,” Mays said in a quote.

Mays is a plaintiff in similar lawsuits against strip clubs in Lincoln, Nebraska, and Wausau, and she hopes to file suits against other clubs where she’s worked in her six-year career as a dancer.

Why are these lawsuits becoming more common? Perhaps because in 2012, dancers won a $13 million class-action settlement in California against Spearmint Rhino.

Clubs that treat their dancers like low-level employees often find their dancers fighting for traditional employee benefits—wages, workmen’s comp, overtime pay, paid sick leave, vacation and holiday pay, health insurance, etc., none of which dancers enjoy as independent contractors.

Most dancers in Las Vegas strip clubs today are independent contractors and most that I’ve talked to say they’d like to keep it that way.