June 2021 brought yet another lawsuit against an Atlanta-area gentlemen’s club due to the club’s alleged failure to comply with minimum wage and overtime laws in its payment of its dancers. This is not the first time that a Georgia club has been hauled into court for this kind of legal violation. For those both inside and outside the strip club industry, a failure to receive the pay the law demands means an unfairly diminished degree of financial security. Don’t suffer in silence; instead, get in touch with a knowledgeable Atlanta minimum wage and overtime lawyer right away.
This latest Fair Labor Standards Act case involved a strip club located in Clayton County. The plaintiffs were two of the club’s dancers who alleged that the pay they received violated both minimum wage and overtime laws.
According to one of the dancers, she worked more than 1,000 unpaid hours across five months, 200 of which were overtime hours. The second dancer had it even worse, working more than 2,400 unpaid hours across 13 months, including 600 hours of overtime, according to the complaint. All told, the club allegedly owed the dancers more than $27,000 and $55,000, respectively.
How is this possible, you might ask? Well, there are actually several mechanisms these kinds of businesses might employ to reduce the amount they pay their dancers. It often starts by classifying the dancers as independent contractors rather than employees. An employer is under no legal obligation to pay an independent contractor a minimum wage or overtime pay.
As was the case for a lot of dancers, this club classified its dancers in that manner, and the dancers received as pay only the tips they obtained from customers.
Additionally, the club forced the dancers to pay various fees each shift. This might include as much as $100 for a “house” fee, $25 for the DJ, and $20 for the “house mom.” (A “house mom” is a strip club worker who aids the dancers in various ways like helping ensure they get on stage on time, helping them with hair and makeup, supplying hygiene products, and cleaning the dressing room. Many of these house moms are also classified as independent contractors and paid sub-minimum wages.)
In many cases, that assertion of independent contractor status has not passed muster with judges. Two Atlanta clubs and one in Decatur tried that argument in recent years. All three lost that argument.
The Level of Control Over the Work Performed Often Proves Employee Status
That’s because one of the most essential things a court will analyze in determining whether you are or are not an employee is control. If the business exerts relatively little control over your performance of your job tasks, then you might be an independent contractor. Generally, the more control the business has, the more likely you’re an employee.
For many dancers, the club has (and enforces) a lot of rules regarding the dancers’ performances. A club’s rules might establish parameters regarding how a dancer dances on stage or in a private session, how she dresses and/or presents herself, the acceptability of tattoos (and how many,) and the price of table dances or VIP sessions. At some clubs, the rules go as far as dictating what kinds of shoes or dresses to wear (or avoid wearing.) This degree of control weighs in favor of the relationship being employee-employer, not independent contractor-client.
Here in 2021, there is an ever-expanding amount of caselaw establishing that, in many situations, the nature of the relationship between a dancer and her strip club is that of an employee and employer, making that dancer entitled to a minimum wage and overtime pay. And it’s not just exotic dancers or other adult entertainment workers. Back in 2017, a cheerleader for pro basketball’s Milwaukee Bucks reached a successful settlement of her FLSA lawsuit alleging payment of sub-minimum wages in which she received flat-rate sums that worked out to be a pay rate of $3.50-4.50 per hour.
If you’re one of those workers (whether working in a strip club or completely unrelated industry) who’s getting paid only a fraction of what the law says you’re owed, don’t wait. Reach out to the skilled Atlanta minimum wage and overtime attorneys at the law firm of Parks, Chesin & Walbert. We know what it takes to win FLSA cases, and are eager to get to work for you. Contact us through this website or at 404-873-8048 to schedule a consultation.