More Strippers Sue Club Owners To Be Treated Like Employees

While much attention has been paid to the growing movement to improve the wages of fast food and retail workers in the U.S., there have been a number of of lawsuits in the last year involving long-held payment practices at the nation’s gentlemen’s clubs. Dancers at an Atlanta strip club are the latest to sue club owners, alleging that they are being forced to pay the owners for the right to work at the club.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that three dancers at the Tattletale Lounge sued the club and its owners in federal court on Monday, alleging violations of the federal Fair Labor Standards Act and seeking class status to cover the 250 or so dancers that have worked at the club during the last three years.

“Defendants have maintained a pattern and practice of not paying employees wages, not paying for overtime wages, failing to provide proper time for required lunch and rest breaks and otherwise failing to provide statutorily mandated wages and compensation,” reads the complaint. “These violations were, and are, so egregious that Defendants go so far as to require each and every similarly situated employee to pay out of pocket costs prior to receiving any compensation.”

From what we understand of the industry, it is standard practice at many clubs for dancers to pay a fee to the club for each night they dance. In some cases, that fee is taken out of the dancers’ earnings at the end of a shift, while other clubs require upfront payment. Clubs have long held that dancers are independent contractors — much like hairstylists who rent chairs in a salon — and thus do not merit things like a minimum hourly wage, overtime, breaks or other considerations as mandated by state and federal law.

In September, a federal court in New York ruled that popular strip club Rick’s Cabaret held its dancers to such strict, micro-managed guidelines that the women were de facto employees and should be treated accordingly.

The Tattletale lawsuit states similar allegations to the Rick’s case, saying the dancers are required to attend staff meetings without compensation, must work a set number of hours or be suspended or fired, can only wear club-approved outfits while working and must get approval from management for their stage names.

In addition mandatory per-shift fees — $20 to the “house mom,” $10 to the doorman, among others — the dancers at the club say they were also forced to share 20% of their tips with the club DJ, and up to 10% of their tips as a performance fee to the club. That may be in violation of the FLSA, which says that tips belong wholly to the tipped employees and are only to be shared if the employees are part of a legal, agreed-upon tipping pool.

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