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Strippers: employees or independent contractors?

A class of current and former exotic dancers filed a claim against The Executive Club LLC d/b/a The Penthouse Executive Club, in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, alleging wage and hour violations. Specifically, the lawsuit against the New York club alleges that the dancers were not paid the applicable minimum wage and overtime pay. In addition, the dancers allege that their tips were misappropriated by the club’s management. The complaint asserts claims under the New York Labor Law as well as the federal Fair Labor Standards Act.

The exotic dancers allege that they are required to pay the house a fee for each dance segment. The entertainers do not earn minimum wage as independent contractors yet the employer takes a portion of their tips. Also, the dancers, like most strippers, are required to wear a certain thong and they must pay for it themselves and want their employer to cover the cost as a “uniform.”

The case turns on the issue of whether the dancers were properly classified as independent contractors. The dancers allege that they were actually “employees” based upon the club’s exercise of control over their work. If the court finds that the dancers were, in fact, common law employees, then the New York Labor Law and Fair Labor Standards Act will apply to the dancers, and could result in liability for unpaid wages.

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