Court Cases and Legal Developments-From the Web...
Are they independent contractors or employees?
Following are random articles we found just searching around on the web. You may want to do your own search, but this will provide a starting point. This is by no means comprehensive; it's just what we found before deciding that there was too much to put up on this website...
Boston's Centerfolds – Massachusetts
With a flurry of lawsuits, strip clubs like Boston's Centerfolds might have to change they way they do business. Photo by AntyDiluvian.
A welcome change might be coming to the way that strippers in Massachusetts get paid. Following an August decision that strippers at King Arthur's Lounge in Chelsea were improperly classified as independent contractors, a new lawsuit has made the same claim for a group of strippers in Salisbury. Depending on how this lawsuit shakes out, it could mean that strippers across the state will begin being classified as regular employees, with more robust rights.
Currently, strippers are considered unpaid "contractors" at most of the clubs in Massachusetts and the rest of the country. That means that strip clubs don't pay wages—the strippers make their living exclusively through customers' tips—and, in most cases, they even require strippers to pay a fee just to perform on stage, never mind that strip clubs have customers primarily because strippers work there. As attorney Shannon Liss-Riordan illustrated it, "Imagine a restaurant where a waiter has to pay to come to work."
It's a profoundly unfair system, and, in the current economy, it has gotten worse. Many strip clubs have increased their stage fees, reducing dancers' take-home pay, and some, like Ten's Show Club in Salisbury, the defendant in the more recent lawsuit, have even charged penalty fees for tardiness or other infractions of company policy, like wearing the wrong outfit on stage.
Luckily for local strippers, Massachusetts has some of the most stringent laws in the country governing independent contractors. Unlike other states, Massachusetts holds that if a person looks like an employee and acts like an employee, that's what she is. In the earlier case, King Arthur's Lounge made the dubious claim that its primary business was selling alcohol and that strippers were "extra entertainment" like a television at a sports bar. (We'll get back to you next time we see soused Sox fans tossing dollar bills at the screen in the Brendan Behan.) That argument didn't fly in Suffolk County, and it probably won't fly in Essex, either.
If the new lawsuit succeeds, expect a flurry of new lawsuits and some quick changes to the strip club-stripper relationship. Strippers, like you or Bostonist, want their fundamental workplace rights—Social Security and Medicare payments, overtime if they work it, and protection against discrimination and harassment. It will be a credit to our state if we can give that to them.
Sapphire Gentleman's Club – Nevada
The suit against Sapphire Gentleman's Club follows a ruling by the Nevada Supreme Court last year allowing a similar class-action lawsuit against another topless club to proceed under state law claims.
The suit was filed in Clark County District Court on behalf of dancer Zuri-Kinshasa Maria Terry by lawyers including Robert Starr of Woodland Hills, Calif., who has a Web site called exoticdancerrights.com.
Also involved in the suit is Tucson attorney Mick Rusing, who was involved in the case resulting in last year's Supreme Court decision. Local lawyers involved in this case are Thomas Christensen and Ryan Anderson of the Christensen Law office.
If certified as a class-action, the lawsuit says it could represent some 5,000 Sapphire dancers, including current and future dancers as well as those who danced at the club full or part-time during the past two years. Sapphire bills itself as the world's largest gentlemen's club with some 400 dancers nightly. While independent contractor arrangements are the standard practice in the industry, the lawsuit claims Sapphire has so many rules governing the dancers' working conditions that they don't qualify as independent contractors.
Dancers, for instance, are required to work a minimum number of hours -- six or longer -- per shift, the suit claims. It says they are prohibited from leaving the premises during their shift, can't leave with customers, can't date or socialize with customers during their off hours and must entertain customers "according to means and methods prescribed by" management.
They must pay club managers and employees for the right to work at the club, charge minimum fixed fees for table and lap dances, promote sales of alcohol and other drinks, accept offers of drinks from customers, appear on stage to dance at fixed times, comply with a dress code and wear approved costumes and uniforms, the suit charges.
Failure to follow the rules will result in suspension or termination, the lawsuit charges. "Such rules and regulations and control over the means and methods of dance and conditions of employment are not of the type imposed upon independent contractors," charges the suit, which seeks back pay for the affected dancers and an order requiring the club to comply with Nevada wage and overtime requirements.
For more information please contact:
King Arthur's Lounge – Massachusetts
About 70 exotic dancers who worked at a Chelsea club can each seek thousands of dollars in damages in a class-action lawsuit because their employer misclassified them as ''independent contractors,'' depriving them of wages and tips.
The suit, which a lawyer for one of the dancers described as the first of its kind in Massachusetts, seeks to recover money they say they should have received at King Arthur's Lounge in Chelsea since 2004.
King Arthur's Lounge did not pay dancers any salaries, required each to pony up a $35 fee to perform each night, and kept $10 of every $30 that each made for ''private dancing'' in video-monitored booths, according to a state judge who granted their motion for summary judgment on the issue of liability.
For more information please contact:
Independent Contractor Misclassification Lichten & Liss-Riordan, P.C.
We are representing groups of employees who allege they have been misclassified as independent contractors. When companies misclassify their workers as independent contractors, these employees are often deprived of many benefits including overtime pay, health insurance, employer-sponsored retirement plans, and expense reimbursements. Misclassified employees also do not receive unemployment and workers' compensation benefits to which they are entitled. Companies that misclassify employees as independent contractors save these significant costs and also do not pay the employers’ share of employment taxes.
In the first case of its kind in Massachusetts, we have obtained a court ruling that strippers were misclassified as independent contractors. The judge certified the case as a class action and ruled that the dancers were illegally deprived of wages and tips due to their misclassification. Click here to read about this case, and click here to read what the Boston Globe editorial page had to say.
Cabaret Royale – Texas
Decision could cost upscale topless club millions
Published on April 06, 1995
If you're a topless dancer who wiggled at Cabaret Royale some time during the past six years, you may be eligible for back pay.
The Labor Department won its lawsuit against Cabaret Royale after six years of asserting that the topless club had failed to pay millions of dollars in wages to its dancers and waitresses. The decision could cost Cabaret Royale as much as $10 million, as well as fundamentally alter how it and other topless clubs do business.
The federal agency accused the "gentleman's club" of a number of labor violations, including failure to pay minimum wage. The nightclub managers, according to the Labor Department, also inappropriately deducted tip money from waitresses and dancers' pay checks and diverted the funds to the business.
Club officials maintain that the dancers were independent contractors who made thousands of dollars in tips from appreciative and generous male guests. "The DOL is targeting an industry it doesn't like," Millard told the Dallas Observer in December. "It's ridiculous for the Department of Labor to be concerned about someone who can earn hundreds or thousands of dollars" receiving minimum wage.
But rejected Cabaret owners' claims, ruling that the dancers were employees and should have been paid at least minimum wage in addition to tips. Fish also ruled against Cabaret Royale's policy of deducting a portion of tips the dancers earned from "table dances," which dancers perform at the individual tables of male guests.
At the upscale club, guests would buy "Cabaret Dollars" and use them to pay the dancers--$20 a table dance. Cabaret Royale skimmed off a portion of the proceeds before converting the play money to cash and giving the rest back to the waitresses.
Fish ordered the topless club to pay back wages and any money deducted from tips to the 1,200 dancers who have performed at the club since 1989. "Cabaret Royale must pay them the full minimum wage for all time worked," Fish ruled. "In addition, the club must return all tip [money] collected from the entertainers."
The judge also ruled that the club owes money to its waitresses, who were paid minimum wage. According to court files, managers at the club deducted 20 percent of all credit-card tips from waitresses, even though none of the waitresses who testified on the nightclub's behalf knew the reason for that deduction. Federal law requires employers to tell their workers why they are taking part of their tips.
Club managers told the court the deducted money was used to help pay for credit-card processing.
Cabaret Royale, the subject of a December 15 Observer cover story titled "Sexual dealing," is regarded as perhaps the country's premier topless nightclub, a classy, expensive departure from run-of-the-mill topless clubs. Its elegant trappings and beautiful dancers have been a big hit with businessmen and traveling executives, netting the club millions of dollars in revenues each year.
For the past few years, the Izzedin family has been feverishly expanding the classy topless club concept, opening clubs in Mexico City and New York and scouting additional locations. Cabaret Royale has been featured in several national magazines, including Playboy and Details. The company has also released videos of its topless entertainers; a Playboy video featuring the performers rose to number 18 on Billboard's video sales chart in 1994.
But the nightclub has, almost from the beginning, been beset by legal difficulties, including a $2.5 million age-discrimination lawsuit filed by a former employee, Ann Marie "Ami" Lindsey. That case, which is still pending, has been delayed because Salah Izzedin filed for bankruptcy last May after closing down the two corporations he had created to operate Cabaret Royale.
Lindsey, who now manages the topless club, said the judge's ruling will change the way the topless industry does business--forcing nightclubs to pay dancers as employees and prohibiting the bars from taking portions of the women's earnings. Most topless bars treat dancers as independent contractors.
Cabaret Royale executive director Millard agrees. "The ruling will have an enormous impact on the entire topless industry. I can assure you that this ruling is being read by the Men's Club and every other gentleman's club in the country, to the extent they have been made aware of it. It will cause a lot of rethinking about the procedures used by the industry.
Sapphire Gentlemen’s Club – Nevada
Tucson lawyer represents exotic dancers seeking back pay
11/05/2009 11:40 AM
A Tucson attorney is representing a group of exotic dancers suing the self-proclaimed world’s largest strip club — Sapphire Gentlemen’s Club in Las Vegas — for failing to pay dancers wages, and for failing to recognize the dancers’ rights, benefits and protections as employees of the club.
According to the plaintiff’s law firm, Tucson-based Rusing & Lopez, the complaint alleges that Sapphire pays no wages to its dancers at all, and, instead, requires these employees to pay “house fees,” “off-stage fees” and other fees to Sapphire for the “privilege” of performing in the club.
Lawyer Mick Rusing of Rusing & Lopez said if the dancers’ case is successful, not only will Sapphire be obligated to pay wages to its employees, but it will also be prevented from demanding payment from the dancers for performing in the clubs and will be required also to provide other benefits and protection of employment including workers compensation insurance.
According to the Las Vegas Sun, Rusing also was involved in a similar case against another topless club last year. That suit resulted in a ruling by the Nevada Supreme Court allowing the case to proceed under state law claims, the Sun reported.
Here’s the law firms’ press release:
Exotic Dancers Sue Sapphire for Unpaid Wages
A group of exotic dancers is suing the self-proclaimed world’s largest strip club — Sapphire Gentlemen’s Club — for failing to pay dancers wages, and for failing to recognize the dancers’ rights, benefits and protections as employees of the Las Vegas club.
On November 2, 2009, attorneys for exotic dancer Zuri-Kinshasa Maria Terry filed a class action lawsuit against Sapphire and its operating company in the Eighth Judicial District Court in Las Vegas on behalf of a class of potentially thousands of current and former Sapphire dancers. Sapphire touts itself as the world’s largest gentlemen’s club — Sapphire’s website boasts of “70,000 square feet of topless entertainment” and “100s of beautiful girls from around the world.”
The dancers are suing under the Nevada Wage and Hour Law seeking recovery of past unpaid wages, reimbursement of “fees” wrongfully imposed upon them, and for damages for other Wage and Hour Act violations. The case centers on the obligation of Sapphire to pay no less than the minimum wage established by Nevada law to the exotic dancers it employs.
The complaint alleges that Sapphire pays no wages to its dancers at
all, and, instead, requires these employees to pay “house fees,” “off-stage
fees” and other fees to Sapphire for the “privilege” of performing in the club.
The complaint includes claims alleging that Sapphire:
Per Mick Rusing of Tucson based Rusing & Lopez, the dancers’ counsel, if the dancers’ case is successful, not only will Sapphire be obligated to pay wages to its employees, but it will also be prevented from demanding payment from the dancers for the “privilege” of performing in the clubs. It will be required also to provide other benefits and protection of employment including workers compensation insurance.
The Plaintiff’s class is represented by the Las Vegas-based firm of Christensen Law, the Tucson, Arizona firm of Rusing & Lopez, and California attorney Robert L. Starr. The way was paved for this action by a similar case in 2008, Jane Roe Dancer I-VII vs. Golden Coin, Ltd., dba Girls of Glitter Gulch, wherein Plaintiff’s attorney Michael J. Rusing, of the Rusing & Lopez firm, successfully argued to the Nevada Supreme Court that exotic dancers should be entitled pursue their wage and hour claims under Nevada law against a group of strip clubs in Las Vegas via a class action. It is anticipated that additional class action lawsuits of a similar nature will be brought against other Las Vegas clubs in the near future.
Déjŕ Vu - North Hollywood – California
Mar 6, 2007 9:35 pm US/Pacific
Former Stripper Alleges Club Messed With Her Tips
former topless dancer sued a North Hollywood strip club for allegedly cheating
her on tips, non-payment of minimum and overtime wages and forcing her to work
more than eight hours without eating.
Spearmint Rhino, et al. - Nationwide
July 9, 2009 by Dan Wisniewski
Wage and hour lawsuits are cropping up by the dozens these days — even in industries you’d least suspect.
Four female workers filed a suit against their company, claiming they were denied overtime pay.
Nothing out of the ordinary here — except that the employees were exotic dancers at clubs that offered “topless” or “totally nude entertainment.”
The nightclub said it didn’t have to pay the strippers overtime or minimum wage because their work fell under the “creative professional” exemption of the Fair Labor Standards Act. In other words, the company claimed the dancers’ primary duty was “the performance of work requiring invention, imagination, originality or talent in a recognized field of artistic or creative endeavor.”
That would be the “artistic endeavor” of dancing with no clothes on.
The dancers, on the other hand, were not so quick to identify their craft as art and sued for back wages.
Where did the court stand on this debate? Unfortunately, we won’t know just yet. Before the case could be heard, the judge dismissed it.
Why? The strippers filed the suit pseudonymously under the name “4 Exotic Dancers” — and the judge wouldn’t let the case proceed until the strippers publicly identified themselves.
The dancers were afraid they’d be retaliated against by the nightclubs they were suing in the form of harassment, termination and blacklisting. They also felt they’d be stigmatized if their identities were revealed publicly.
Courts do occasionally allow plaintiffs to testify under pseudonyms if it’s necessary to protect the person from injury or harassment.
Tough luck for the exotic dancers though — the court said that even though the strippers may “suffer some embarrassment or economic harm,” it’s not enough to warrant pseudonymity here. If they wish to file again, they’ll have to do it under their real names.
Still, what’s the lesson from this titillating case? Double-check who you’re classifying as exempt or non-exempt — problems can crop up where you least expect.
Cite: 4 Exotic Dancers v. Spearmint Rhino, et al., U.S. Dist. Ct. C.D. Cal, No. CV 08-4038 ABC (SSx)
King of Diamonds – Minnesota
Tuesday, June 16, 2009
A recent National Law Journal article, Strippers Sue to be Classified as Employees, not Independent Contractors, details a recent lawsuit filed against the King of Diamonds club by its adult entertainers. The suit alleges the Minneapolis club intentionally misclassified its entertainers as independent contractors, requiring them to pay fees to perform ("pay for the pole") and denying them wages (tips only).
After reading about these exotic dancers, I just had to run to the nearest... laptop to research the case law (what did you think I was gonna say?). And I wonder why people call me a nerd. The article identified Reich v. Priba, 890 F.Supp. 586 (N.D. Tex. 1995) as the seminal case on the subject so let's examine its analysis.
Reich v. Priba Analysis
The Court briefly analyzed five areas: control; skill and initiative; investment; profit and loss; and permanency. Touching on just the highlight:
Control - The club set show times, issued conduct guidelines for the entertainers, and required a signed agreement written solely by the club. The club also controlled the advertising, atmosphere, and surroundings.
Skill and Initiative - "There was no evidence that any specialized skills were a requirement to perform at the club." I must interject my own opinion here that I highly doubt that in fact there were no special skills required. But hey, I didn't see the evidence.
Investment - "All investment and risk capital is provided by defendants."
Profit and Loss - "Any profit to the entertainers is more analogous to earned wages than to a return for risk on capital investment."
Permanency - The Court noted that the job of dancing is clearly impermanent. The Court did, however, note that "courts must make allowances for those operational characteristics that are unique or intrinsic to the particular business or industry."
In case it's not obvious at this point, the Court held that the dancers were employees, not independent contractors.
The Reich analysis seems pretty one-sided, and the King of Diamonds club should be worried. The National Law Journal article also mentions similar holdings in Alaska, California, and Oregon. Of course, each club has its own unique set of circumstances so maybe they have an argument. The National Law Journal could not obtain comments from the owner or manager of the club.
Scores - Manhattan
Thursday, October 11, 2007
By LARRY NEUMEISTER, Associated Press Writer
A chain of upscale topless clubs cheats dancers and other workers by taking portions of their tips and failing to pay proper wages, according to a lawsuit filed Wednesday.
The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Manhattan, was brought on behalf of Siri Diaz, a former bartender at Scores in Manhattan. It sought class-action status to benefit workers at two clubs in Manhattan and related nightclubs in Chicago, Las Vegas and New Orleans. The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages.
Justin M. Swartz, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, said the clubs had unjustly taken millions of dollars over the years from hundreds of workers in a business where the turnover rate among employees is high.
"So much money flows through these clubs it doesn't seem Scores should have to take that extra chunk from the workers who make this business successful," he said.
Besides the tips, Swartz said the clubs cheat workers by failing to pay minimum wage and overtime compensation. Diaz of West New York, N.J., worked at a Scores club from August 2006 through February 2007.
"We'd like the club to reimburse workers for money they took and to change its policy so workers in the future know that when they get a tip, they've earned it and can keep it," he said.
Cheetah's Lounge and Crazy Horse Too – Nevada
Exotic dancers seek $30,000 each to cover back pay and tips they say are due them the past two years.
Las Vegas strippers have filed a lawsuit charging topless clubs with illegal
labor practices for not paying them minimum wage and forcing them to share their
tips with club owners.
19 Los Angeles Cabarets Named in Lawsuit
June 24, 2008
A group of exotic dancers has sued some of the biggest nightclubs in Los Angeles over unpaid wages and tips.
Attorney Patrick Manshardt filed the lawsuit Wednesday in U.S. District Court on behalf of four dancers.
The suit accuses 19 clubs of violating federal and state law by not paying any wages to the dancers and forcing them to tip other club employees, such as bartenders and DJs, and give up to 50% of their tips to the clubs.
Manshardt says the clubs attempted to isolate themselves from employee wage laws by requiring the dancers to sign employee agreements as independent contractors. He says the agreements were signed under duress and are therefore void.
The suit asks that the dancers receive back pay and return of all tips.
King Arthur’s Lounge Inc - Massachusetts
The reach of wage hour laws extends even into topless go-go bars, as a recent case has, perhaps humorously, demonstrated. In a case entitled Chaves v. King Arthur’s Lounge Inc. a Massachusetts court has ruled that so-called exotic dancers who performed in a local strip club were employees, not independent contractors. Thus, they were due, at least, the state minimum wages and overtime compensation from their employer.
The nightclub, King Arthur’s Lounge, had contended that the dancers were not employees and thus not entitled to minimum wage and overtime. The state court judge not only rejected this argument, she also certified the lawsuit as a class action.
To add insult to injury, not only did the club not pay any compensation to the dancers, it also actually charged each of the dancers the sum of $35 per night for the “opportunity” to dance and earn tips from patrons. The employer defended by claiming that its primary business was selling food and liquor; the judge noted that the employer sought to posit its use of the dancers as “a form of entertainment it provides for its patrons, akin to the televisions and pool tables in a sports bar.”
The judge quickly rejected that attempt, ruling that “a court would need to be blind to human instinct to decide that live nude entertainment was equivalent to the wallpaper of routinely-televised matches, games, tournaments and sports talk.” She also concluded that “the dancers were an integral part of the company’s business and were therefore more likely to be employees than independent contractors.” The judge continued, holding that “in an age of electronic and Internet access to a wide variety of adult media, exotic dancing is unlikely to offer a commercial opportunity – over the long term—that would rise to an independently established trade for occupation.”
This case highlights the fact that every employer must carefully evaluate the circumstances of their engagement of individuals to perform services for them. If the services are, as herein, an integral component of the employer’s business, or if too much control is exerted by the employer, or the individual does not perform these services for anyone else, then that individual is likely an employee, not an independent contractor.
The fact that they may dance around a pole does not change this analysis.
Cheetah's Lounge and one from Crazy Horse Too - Nevada
March 28, 1999 12:00pm
Las Vegas Sun
topless clubs in Las Vegas have been named in a class-action lawsuit alleging
they didn't pay their strippers even minimum wage and required them to share
their tips -- both in violation of Nevada law.
10,000 strippers get the right to sue – Nevada Supreme Court
February 1, 2008
CARSON CITY (AP) — The state Supreme Court has given a go-ahead for a class-action lawsuit by an Arizona lawyer who wants Las Vegas strippers classified as club employees and paid wages by the owners of clubs where they work.
Many of the estimated 10,000 strippers in Las Vegas pay a fee to dance at clubs and sign agreements classifying themselves as independent contractors. They get no pay or benefits and earn only tips.
A panel of high court justices ruled 3-0 on Thursday that lawyer Mick Rusing can bring a class-action lawsuit on behalf of strippers seeking to change that arrangement.
“This is going to force employers to stop living off the backs of these women,” said Sean Brearcliffe, a lawyer at Rusing’s firm.
Playground Lounge - Montana State Supreme Court
NU Online News Service, May 27, 3:31 p.m. EDT
Labor officials properly determined that a strip club can’t claim its nude and topless dancers are private contractors, rather than wage employees covered by workers’ compensation law, the Montana State Supreme Court has ruled.
The finding by the high court came as part of a decision in a case brought by four exotic dancers against the Playground Lounge and Casino in Great Falls, Mont.
The Playground operated by TYAD Inc. had at one point paid its dancers $5.15 an hour to perform in the lounge, but required them to pay the club a $5 fee for each lap dance they negotiated with a customer and $10 for each “hostage” dance, the decision recounted.
But on Jan. 1, 2003, the club had dancers sign a “Rental Agreement” calling them independent contractors and requiring them to pay “rent” fees for the stage and dressing room every night. Initially they were allowed to keep all tips and dance fees, but later the club began requiring dancers to pay $10 after each hostage dance.
The dancers eventually began proceedings to get thousands of dollars in regular and overtime wages and reimbursement of the stage fees.
Their case went before the state Department of Labor and Industry, the Department’s Independent Contractor Central Unit and eventually the District Court of the Eighth Judicial District. The dancers were found to be employees, covered by workers’ compensation law.
In their decision, the Supreme Court noted that the agreements the dancers were made to sign were designed by TYAD to “circumvent Montana wage laws and to secure the services of the dancers in a manner that financially benefited the Playground.”
“It can be logically concluded that the stage fees were paid from the only remuneration the dancers received--their tips and the portion of private dance fees they were allowed to keep. Some dancers testified that they did not earn enough in tips and dance fees on some nights to make up for the stage fee they were charged,” the decision said.
The court’s opinion also found “not only did TYAD fail to pay the dancers earned wages; it demanded payment for providing essential elements of employment to the dancers, i.e., a stage and a dressing room.”
The Labor Department Wage Unit had found that the stage fees constituted illegal kickbacks that had to be repaid to the dancers.
While the court found mostly for the dancers, it did revise some of the amounts that the club was found to owe them.
Fantasies – Alaska Supreme Court
by on September 10, 2006
The exotic dancers’ lawsuit against Anchorage strip clubs Fantasies on 5th Avenue and Crazy Horse cites the Alaska Wage and Hour Act and seeks class-action status. Key quote: “This isn’t about how much money I make in tips,” said dancer Jennifer Prater. “This is about wage and hour laws.” A 1987 Alaska Supreme Court ruling rejected clubs’ contention that the dancers were independent contractors as opposed to employees. (Megan Holland, Anchorage Daily News, Sept. 6).
Ten’s Show Club – Massachusetts
When Noel Van Wagner began working as a stripper in New England clubs about 15 years ago, she typically got a modest wage or no salary at all. But she said she made so much in tips - $300 to $800 per shift - that she didn’t care and didn’t even mind paying club owners $10 or $20 for the right to perform each night.
Like other forms of entertainment, however, strip clubs have lost customers because of the bad economy, and Van Wagner said the place where she works, Ten’s Show Club in Salisbury, has responded by wringing as much money as it can out of each dancer. The club, she says, pays no salary, charges each stripper $40 to $60 per shift to perform, and imposes other fees for lateness or failing to participate in every dance routine - all at a time when tips have plunged.
Yesterday, she and another dancer at the club, along with one who left in March, sued the business in Essex Superior Court for allegedly misclassifying them as “independent contractors,’’ depriving them of wages and tips. The strippers were emboldened by a recent state court ruling that about 70 strippers who worked at King Arthur’s Lounge in Chelsea were entitled to recover thousands of dollars in damages in a class-action lawsuit that made similar allegations. That complaint was believed to be the first of its kind in Massachusetts.
“I expect fair treatment in the work place, and I expect club owners to obey the law and conduct their business according to the law,’’ said Van Wagner. “None of us wants to sue, but we feel as though it’s the only way to effect change.’’
An English major at Framingham State College who lives in Boxborough and gives her age as “thirty-something,’’ Van Wagner said her husband, an engineer, showed her a newspaper article about the earlier suit. It prompted her to call one of the plaintiffs’ lawyers from that case.
The lawyer, Tod A. Cochran, of Boston, said he believes strip clubs in Massachusetts routinely violate state labor law by misclassifying dancers as independent contractors to avoid paying miniumum wage, overtime, Social Security, workers’ compensation, and other benefits. Customers, he said, should be “outraged that the club isn’t sharing any of its profits with the workers and is exploiting [the strippers] by not only not paying them but by charging them a fee.’’
Mark Filtranti, who owns the night club in the beach town near New Hampshire, was out of state yesterday and could not be reached for comment, according to a man who answered the phone at the club.
The suit follows a July 30 ruling by Suffolk Superior Court Judge Frances A. McIntyre that King Arthur’s was liable for misclassifying strippers and that the plaintiffs could proceed to trial to determine the damages they should recover.
The club had argued that selling alcohol was its main business, not putting on strip shows, and that performers were independent contractors who provided extra entertainment akin to televisions and pool tables at a sports bar. McIntyre scoffed at that in her ruling, saying, “The dancing is an integral part of King Arthur’s business.’’
Robert R. Berluti, a Boston lawyer for King Arthur’s, said the ruling reflected the fact that Massachusetts is “an outlier’’ in the country, with one of the strictest laws governing the classification of workers as independent contractors.
Van Wagner said she has worked at the club off and on for about 15 years. The other two plaintiffs named in the suit are Bonnie Griffin, of Merrimack, N.H., who has danced at the club since 2002, and Katherine Sandoval, of Kennebunkport, Maine, who worked there from 2006 to early this year.
The suit says they are employees, not contractors, of Ten’s Show Club because management controls most aspects of their jobs, including their wardrobes, the music they dance to, and their work schedules. The women are not allowed to work at competing clubs.
Van Wagner said Ten’s Show Club never paid her a salary, but that was not a problem when management charged her $10 to perform each shift. But with the fee as much as $60 on some nights and management deducting from their tips if they are late or miss a dance routine, she said, strippers sometimes barely earn enough to make it worth it.
Saltzman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Published by administrator | Filed under Uncategorized
Case was settled in the Summer of 2006 for 2.4 Million dollars on behalf of
TO ALL INDIVIDUALS WHO WORKED AS DANCERS AT THE GOLD CLUB, LOCATED AT 650 HOWARD STREET IN SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA, FROM MAY 24, 2000 UNTIL FEBRUARY 18, 2004. YOU MAY BE A MEMBER OF A CLASS OF PERSONS WHO SUED THE GOLD CLUB.
IF YOU ARE A MEMBER OF THE CLASS, WHICH IS DESCRIBED BELOW, YOU SHOULD CAREFULLY READ THIS NOTICE BECAUSE IT WILL AFFECT YOUR RIGHTS. THIS COURT-ORDERED NOTICE IS NOT AN EXPRESSION OF ANY OPINION BY THE COURT AS TO THE MERITS OF ANY OF THE CLAIMS OR DEFENSES ASSERTED BY EITHER SIDE IN THIS LITIGATION. THE SOLE PURPOSE OF THIS NOTICE IS TO INFORM YOU OF THE LAWSUIT SO THAT YOU CAN MAKE AN INFORMED DECISION AS TO WHETHER YOU SHOULD REMAIN IN OR OPT OUT OF THIS CLASS ACTION.
BACKGROUND OF CASE
The Plaintiffs in this lawsuit are three former dancers at the Gold Club, who performed under the stage names â€śGrace,â€ť â€śKiliâ€ť and â€śDebra.â€ť The Plaintiffs sued Defendants SOLID GOLD, INC., TOP SHELF ENTERTAINMENT, INC., and GOLD CLUB â€“ SF, LLC. At the Plaintiffsâ€™ request, the Court authorized this lawsuit to proceed as a class action and appointed the Plaintiffs to act as the Class Representatives on behalf of all dancers who worked at the Gold Club from May 24, 2000 until February 18, 2004. This group of dancers is known as the Class or the Class Plaintiffs. The Court also appointed the attorneys listed below as Class counsel to provide legal representation to each Class member.
Class alleges that Defendants violated California law by treating Class members
as independent contractors, when those persons were in fact employees of one or
more of the Defendants. Defendants deny the Class’ allegations and assert that
Class members were properly treated as independent contractors, not employees.
The Court has not yet ruled whether Class members were independent contractors
8, 2005, the Court entered an order certifying the Class, which is defined as
This class action is currently set for trial on October 11, 2005 in the California Superior Court for the County of San Francisco.
AUTOMATIC INCLUSION IN CLASS; RIGHT TO OPT-OUT OF CLASS
If you are a member of the class â€“ that is, if you were a dancer at the Gold Club at any time between May 4, 2000 and February 18, 2004 - you have the following options:
A. You will be automatically included in the Class unless you elect to exclude yourself from the class by September 24, 2005.
B. You may exclude yourself from the Class by giving Class counsel notice as set forth below.
You have the choice of remaining in the Class or being excluded from the Class. The choice has certain legal consequences, and you are advised to discuss your decision with an attorney. Class counsel will not contact you during the period that you may opt-out of the Class, from August 25, 2005 until September 24, 2005, although you may contact Class counsel should you wish. Defense counsel is not permitted to contact you during the opt-out period or at any time if you remain in the Class, because the Class was certified.
IF YOU CURRENTLY DANCE AT THE GOLD CLUB, YOUR DECISION TO BE INCLUDED IN THE CLASS WILL NOT AFFECT YOUR ABILITY TO CONTINUE TO DANCE AT THE CLUB.
If you elect to be included in the Class:
1. You will be represented by the existing Class Representatives, who are identified as the named Plaintiffs above under their stage names, and by the attorneys appointed as counsel for the Class, who are identified below. You will be entitled to contact Class counsel regarding this litigation. After the opt-out period, Class counsel may also contact you to advise you regarding this litigation. Defendants and their attorneys are not permitted to contact you about this action.
2. You will receive notice of any proposed settlement or dismissal of Class claims, or any judgment entered in this action.
3. You will waive any right you may have to separately sue SOLID GOLD, INC., TOP SHELF ENTERTAINMENT, INC., and/or GOLD CLUB â€“ SF, LLC. on any of the claims asserted in this class action and, instead, agree that your claims will proceed in the Superior Court for the County San Francisco as part of this class action. You will be bound by any judgment or other final disposition of the class lawsuit, whether favorable or unfavorable, subject to any right of appeal. You will not have the right to bring an individual action at a later date.
4. You will participate, upon proof of membership in the class and the filing of a proper claim form, in a distribution of funds, if any, recovered in the litigation.
records maintained by Defendants regarding your work at the Gold Club will
will not be bound by any disposition of the class action and you will retain
will not share in any recovery which might be paid to Class members if the
COUNSEL FOR THE PLAINTIFF CLASS
CHANGE OF ADDRESS
If you move after receiving this notice and elect to remain in the Class, you should supply your name and correct address to:
for the Plaintiff Class
WHAT TO DO
IF YOU WISH TO BE A MEMBER OF THE CLASS, YOU DO NOT NEED TO TAKE ANY FURTHER ACTION, EXCEPT TO PROVIDE AN ACCURATE ADDRESS TO THECLASS ATTORNEYS, SHOULD YOU CHOOSE TO DO SO. YOU SHOULD RETAIN ALL RECORDS AND DOCUMENTS PERTAINING TO YOUR WORK AT THE GOLD CLUB. IF YOU WISH TO BE EXCLUDED FROM THE CLASS, YOU MUST NOTIFY CLASS COUNSEL IN WRITING (SETTING FORTH YOUR NAME AND ADDRESS) AT THE ADDRESS SET FORTH BELOW AND SUBMIT YOUR WRITTEN NOTICE IN AN ENVELOPE POSTMARKED NO LATER THAN SEPTEMBER 24, 2005:
HON. JAMES L. WARREN
Send mail to
questions or comments about this web site.