An Atlanta strip club is being sued by dancers who say they were denied minimum wage and overtime pay, according to a report in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Three dancers are looking to include their roughly 250 colleagues who have worked at the Tattletale Lounge in Atlanta over the past three years, and in addition to back wages the dancers are suing to be compensated for various fees they were charged in order to work there, like fines if the dancers couldn’t induce patrons to buy drinks, doorman fees, and kickbacks to DJs and the house.
The Atlanta case is the most recent in a spate of lawsuits exotic dancers have been launching against gentlemen’s clubs in recent years.In April of 2013, a group of 1,245 dancers at the New York-based Penthouse Executive Club reached an $8 million preliminary settlement with the club over unpaid wages; while a California club was forced to pay $12.9 million to dancers in 2012. Other cases in Colorado and Louisiana, just to name a few, are working their way through courts now.
The cases boil down to whether or not exotic dancers at such clubs can be hired as self-employed “independent contractors” or whether they are employees protected by many provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act. Strip clubs like to classify dancers as independent contractors but then turn around and treat them as employees by dictating the hours they must work, the clothes they must wear, and what they can charge clients.
The IRS uses a 20-factor test to determine whether businesses should be classifying workers as independent employees, and estimates that it loses billions in taxes each year to employers who misclassify their employees, and therefore don’t withold and pay taxes on these individuals. Other factors used to determine whether an employee is a contractor is the extent to which that person is dependent on the business to make ends meet, and whether the employees in question are essential for the businesses function. The more dependent the business and employee are on each other, the more likely these workers should be classified as employees.
The bottom line is that the vast majority of exotic dancers in this country aren’t independent contractors, mostly due to the amount of control their employers have over them in their workplace. Many of these women are highly paid, but according to federal law, their employers still owe them a minimum wage, overtime, and can’t demand kickbacks.