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Mississippi Jury Awards Five Black Strippers $3.3 Million in Race Discrimination Suit

By Edgar M. Rivera

On May 16, 2019, in Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Danny’s Restaurant, LLC, a jury before the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi awarded $3.3 million to five African-American strippers in a race-discrimination case against Danny’s Cabaret (“Danny’s), a strip club.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) sued Danny’s, alleging that the Jackson, Mississippi strip club limited when Black women could work, while White strippers had more flexible schedules, and fined only Black women $25 if they did not show up for their shift.  Essentially, Black dancers were only allowed to work during their scheduled shifts, and if a Black dancer did not show up for her scheduled shift, she was fined.  White dancers were not required to schedule their work shifts in advance, but were free simply to appear for shifts at their discretion; nor were they threatened with fines for not showing up on any certain days.  This system was later replaced with a quota system: the number of Black dancers who could dance on a given night depended on how many White dancers were present.

The EEOC also accused Danny’s management of forcing Black women to work at another club Danny’s owned, Black Diamonds, where conditions and security were worse and the dancers were paid less than at Danny’s.  According to the strippers, at Black Diamonds, “patrons were allowed to grope the entertainers, permitted to use illicit drugs and smoke cigarettes, and there was initially no air conditioning.”  When there were too many Black dancers at Danny’s, the manager simply made them go across the street to dance at Black Diamonds, instead of being sent home.  Those Black Dancers who refused to work at Black Diamonds were also subjected to fines, forced to go home, or had to pay to work at Danny’s.

Danny’s manager also allegedly used racial slurs against Black dancers, Black customers, and Black people in general, such as “Black bitches,” “Black ass,” and “Nigger.”  Employees called bi-racial people “Half breeds.”  White employees who had been romantically involved with Black men were castigated and called “Nigger lovers.”  Management also allegedly did not want Black customers in Danny’s.

U.S. District Judge Henry Wingate denied defendant’s motion for summary judgment on September 30, 2018.  After a nearly week-long trial on the issue of damages, jurors returned a verdict in which the women would split $3.3 million for back pay, and past and future suffering.  Marsha Rucker, the EEOC’s regional lawyer in Birmingham, Alabama, said in a statement for the commission “We will protect employees in any industry who are subjected to such blatant and repeated discrimination”.

The Harman Firm supports all equal treatment for all workers.  If your employer has discriminated against you based on race, contact The Harman Firm, LLP.

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