Judge Says Strippers Are Employees, Merit Minimum Wage

Rick's International claims that dancers are independent contractors, but a federal judge disagrees.

Rick’s International claims that dancers are independent contractors, but a federal judge disagrees.

Are dancers at a strip club independent contractors or employees? That’s the question involved in a lawsuit against a popular Manhattan club and in at least one other pending lawsuit against a club in Colorado.

Dancers at Rick’s Cabaret in NYC sued the club’s owners saying that they should be provided minimum hourly wages and treated like actual employees. The club tried to counter that each dancer is an independent contractor who makes a good living by earning “performance fees” — usually in the form of cash from between the fingers of tipsy customers.

But yesterday, a federal judge held that because the dancers are “micromanaged,” by being subjected to a list of very strict rules and guidelines — covering everything from gum-chewing (it’s a no-no) to feet- and leg-placement (one foot on the floor at all times) to dietary restrictions (keep your figure or lose your job) to what to charge customers ($20 per song for a lap dance, or so I’ve been told) — these women are indeed employees of the club.

“The undisputed facts reflect that Rick’s NY, not the dancers, controlled the way the club operated,” wrote the judge.

The suit covers more than 1,900 women who worked at the Rick’s in NYC from 2005 onward. There are also Rick’s locations in Texas, Indiana, and Minnesota, according to the company’s website, which we won’t link to so you won’t be tempted to click on it and possibly get in trouble at work. The company’s stock is also listed on NASDAQ, where it’s share price has dropped about 2% since yesterday’s ruling.

“The ruling makes it very clear that the entertainers at Rick’s were misclassified as independent contractors,” said the lawyer for the plaintiffs.

While Rick’s says it intends to appeal, the judge has ordered the two parties to sit in a darkened corner and negotiate a settlement over a few ridiculously overpriced beers.

Meanwhile, a similar lawsuit is still pending in a U.S. District Court in Denver.

In that case, four dancers at a club in Grand Junction, CO, say they must pay the owner in order to work there. The owner claims the dancers are tenants, who agreed to sign a lease agreement, much like a hair stylist who rents out a chair at a salon.

Strip club must pay its performers minimum wage: Judge [NY Daily News]

Strippers win NY suit similar to one against Grand Junction club
[Denver Post]

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