When most people envision a setting for a labor dispute over the failure to pay minimum wage and overtime, they invariably think of factory floors, store aisles or even office cubicles. Indeed, the last place they likely envision is the stage at a local gentlemen’s club.
As it turns out, however, a growing number of exotic dancers across Florida and around the nation are filing class action lawsuits against their employers for allegedly violating federal labor laws.
According to experts, standard practice in the industry is for exotic dancers to be paid no working wage whatsoever, and paying both the club and the DJ nightly fees. While this arrangement is satisfactory if a significant amount of cash is earned via tips and private dance fees, critics say it can quickly become untenable if business is slow as the fees must be covered.
In these lawsuits, exotic dancers are arguing that this industry practice is unfair and in direct contravention of federal labor laws.
For their part, the gentlemen’s clubs are arguing that the dancers are not employees, but rather independent contractors or lessees who essentially rent space to perform on a regular basis and leave the everyday difficulties of running a business to them.
Thus far this argument has proved unavailing, as courts from here in Florida and neighboring Georgia, to California and New York have ruled in favor of dancers, finding that they are indeed protected by the federal Fair Labor Standards Act, and therefore entitled to paid wages and benefits.
It will be interesting to see how this matter continues to play out in the courts. It’s worth noting, however, that many clubs are starting to have dancers sign what amounts to lease agreements, similar to those signed by hairdressers at salons, that require them to forfeit their right to sue in favor of binding arbitration.
If you have questions or concerns related to a wage and hour dispute, or other employment law matters, please consider speaking with an experienced legal professional as soon as possible.