Skip to main content

Silhouetted dancer and pole.
Seriously, this is work.
A surprising group of workers will benefit from a court decision ruling they'd been misclassified as independent contractors: dancers at a New York City strip club. Misclassification—calling workers independent contractors so that they aren't eligible for minimum wage, unemployment insurance, or a host of other protections, even though in fact they function as employees—saves businesses big money, cutting payroll costs by as much as 26 percent. As Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez puts it:
Some people call the practice ‘misclassification.’ I call it what it is: workplace fraud. Workplace fraud has three victims: the worker of course; the employers who do the right thing but find themselves undermined by an un-level playing field; and the government, which gets cheated out of unpaid taxes.
And, yes, while it tends to come up in the construction industry, that applies to exotic dancers, too. A group of current and former dancers at Rick's Cabaret sued for back pay, having been paid "performance fees" rather than regular wages. Not only that, they had to pay the club a fee for every night they worked.
U.S. District Judge Paul Engelmayer of New York generally sided with the plaintiffs, saying in a 65-page ruling that the club exercised so much control over the dancers that the women were actually employees subject to the club's rules, and could not make independent decisions about their work.

Rick's Cabaret ordered that dancers not chew gum, dictated what outfits they wore, when they came to work and which bathrooms they used on the premises, Engelmayer said. [...]

The judge's ruling follows similar decisions involving strip club dancers from judges in Kansas, Georgia, Washington D.C. and Minnesota, who have said that the workers are entitled to receive minimum wage, overtime and other wage protections.

Yes, even if workers earn a lot of tips, their employers have to pay them. It's not like Rick's Cabaret could charge the prices it doubtless commands if the dancers weren't there to pull in customers looking for something other than a beer or televisions airing sporting contests. And even if minimum wage is dwarfed by tips, workers deserve all those other things that go with being an employee: unemployment insurance, workers' comp, payment of payroll taxes.

Rick's Cabaret, which is a chain operating more than 40 locations, says this ruling won't make a difference since it already changed its classification of workers. But the chain plans to appeal.

Originally posted to Daily Kos Labor on Wed Sep 11, 2013 at 11:02 AM PDT.

Also republished by In Support of Labor and Unions and Daily Kos.

Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags


More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences

  •  ...and dress codes, what about dress codes /nt (6+ / 0-)

    Warning - some snark may be above‽ (-9.50; -7.03)‽ eState4Column5©2013 "I’m not the strapping young Muslim socialist that I used to be" - Barack Obama 04/27/2013

    by annieli on Wed Sep 11, 2013 at 11:04:59 AM PDT

    •  These girls are hard workers and need protection (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Alexandra Lynch

      It is not easy to do the physical work these girls these girls have to do and they have to put up with all those rethuglicans hitting on them all night long too. ;-)

      Our money system is not what we have been led to believe. The creation of money has been "privatized," or taken over by private money lenders. Thomas Jefferson called them “bold and bankrupt adventurers just pretending to have money.” webofdebt

      by arealniceguy on Sat Sep 14, 2013 at 02:51:34 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Whenever labor issues come up (17+ / 0-)

    the obvious solution is ...... UNION.

    We need to revitalize the idea of unions in the US and the kinds of workers they represent.

    •  sort of a lysistrata situation. n/t (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Darwinian Detrius, Ojibwa

      Difficult, difficult, lemon difficult.

      by Loge on Wed Sep 11, 2013 at 11:40:04 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I get what you're saying (9+ / 0-)

        but, even though this diary is specifically about strippers, it's also about the larger issue of this bullshit dodge employers use to deny benefits to the people who make their profits for them. Come to think of it, since this is all about fucking workers, maybe we should appropriate the word "lysistrata" for when we fight back.

        One good thing about music, when it hits you feel no pain -Bob Marley

        by Darwinian Detritus on Wed Sep 11, 2013 at 12:12:52 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  yeah, (4+ / 0-)

          i didn't mean to trivialize.  The independent contractor model pits the workers against each other and makes the more dependent on the mercy of the boss, not the arms-length bargaining among equals the term implies, and the women who do stripping are likely already on margin the most economically insecure.  (Yes, I'm sure exceptions abound, especially if you can't figure out the strippers are lying to you to get your money.)  

          Part of the problem may also be the licensing requirements that create an oligopoly of businesses with cabaret licenses.  If women want to strip, those who hold those licenses have monopsony buying power.  

          I'm also trying to think about how a chain model makes sense - why would someone pay Rick's a franchise fee instead of just running his own strip club?  With fast food, it's standardization of menus and prices and access to the parent's marketing, neither of which would matter.  Forty clubs is not really enough for group buying power of liquor to make a difference (besides, the markups are likely huge they wouldn't matter).  The only examples i could think would be a value proposition are the ones co-branded like penthouse and hustler on the west side.  Maybe the size gives protection from having to deal with the mafia.   It's not a business I plan to be in.

          Difficult, difficult, lemon difficult.

          by Loge on Wed Sep 11, 2013 at 01:16:21 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  I agree about the monopsony (0+ / 0-)

            But I think the independent contractor model makes sense for strippers.

            They are not tied to a single club, they often have customers who come specifically for them and will follow them to another nearby club.  They design and buy their own costumes and do their own choreography.

            In addition the economics of the business - men come in, nurse a drink for a long time, and spend most of their money on the strippers - argues for the independent contractor model in which the strippers pay the venue.

            If strippers are employees then I wonder what other people traditionally considered independent contractors are also employees.

            For example, if I operate a flea market and people pay me for booth space are they my staff and I must pay them a wage instead?

            What about if I operate an entertainment venue - say a boardwalk - and various entertainers pay me for space and collect money from customers?

            What about virtual venues - say companies like oDesk and eLance?  Should the contractors on these sites be considered employees of oDesk and eLance?

      •  "This Isn't Lysistrata" (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Alexandra Lynch
        (1:45) This isn't Lysistrata. I like it, but it isn't Lysistrata.

        Men are so necessarily mad, that not to be mad would amount to another form of madness. -Pascal

        by bernardpliers on Sat Sep 14, 2013 at 03:04:27 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Of course they do (11+ / 0-)

    Not only is it work. It's hard, physical labor.

    "The smartest man in the room is not always right." -Richard Holbrooke

    by Demi Moaned on Wed Sep 11, 2013 at 11:21:13 AM PDT

    •  and produces the same /nt (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Santa Susanna Kid, Demi Moaned

      Warning - some snark may be above‽ (-9.50; -7.03)‽ eState4Column5©2013 "I’m not the strapping young Muslim socialist that I used to be" - Barack Obama 04/27/2013

      by annieli on Wed Sep 11, 2013 at 11:30:47 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Yes it is, and that goes double for burlesque (6+ / 0-)

      performers as while their acts do involve taking their clothes off are far more complex than your regular striptease and typically require between 5-30 hours of rehearsal time (youtube interview with Mimi Le Yu, one of the best burlesque performers in St Louis: parts are NSFW) for each new act.  In fact, there is even a Pole Boot Camp at the Michelle Mynx Academy of Pole Dance specifically to get people ready for acrobatic pole dancing.

      Acrobatic pole tricks require a certain level of strength.  This class combines conditioning with cardio to tone and strengthen your muscles while burning calories.  

      Your instructor, a former member of the U.S. Army, models this class after boot camp and Army PT (Physical Training).  With his help, you'll be flipping around the top of the pole before you know it!

      You have watched Faux News, now lose 2d10 SAN.

      by Throw The Bums Out on Wed Sep 11, 2013 at 11:44:44 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  It also requires... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Throw The Bums Out, Dirtandiron

      the exotic dancers put up with the bullshit of their audience (an audience not really aficionados of  choreography) .
      I dated an exotic dancer years ago and I've had 3 former students that paid their way through college working as exotic dancers - it's a hard, shitty job.
      One problem is that many "strip joints" are controlled by semi-legal criminal organizations

      "If knowledge can create problems, it is not through ignorance that we can solve them. Isaac Asimov [-8.25 / -5.64]

      by carver on Wed Sep 11, 2013 at 01:37:55 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Yeah, well that's why I like burlesque shows (0+ / 0-)

        rather than plain old strip joints.  Especially the big shows where they have plenty of sketch comedy and and overall plot that is hilarious as well.  Every bit as hard work if not more as the burlesque troupes are in charge of everything from booking the club or other venue to costumes to music to lighting and sound.  Much better audience though.

        You have watched Faux News, now lose 2d10 SAN.

        by Throw The Bums Out on Wed Sep 11, 2013 at 01:56:09 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  most of both are (0+ / 0-)

        a thinly disguised cover for  prostitution...

        A man is born as many men but dies as a single one.--Martin Heidegger

        by cdreid on Sat Sep 14, 2013 at 02:48:08 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  The strip club co-op (7+ / 0-)

    in San Francisco just closed a week ago. They had unionized and after they unionized the owner was going to shut the place down so the workers took over. They ran it as a worker owned-worker run cooperative for more than a decade, IIRC.

  •  Sex Work is Real Work. (Been there, done that, (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    CorinaR, Dianna, Alexandra Lynch, Kimbeaux

    got the tee-shirt!)

  •  I think the work around is to let them make their (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Alexandra Lynch, Dirtandiron

    own schedules.

    I seem to recall that was one of the ways the E.R. doctors were considered "independent contractors," when by all other measures we were employees - even got a paycheck from payroll based on hours worked, wore I.D. tags and everything.

    So, if one dancer gets designated Director of Scheduling and she's not an employee, then the schedule she makes is just coordinating all of the independent contractors.

    Of course, once you have a leader and you become organized, anything can happen. . .

    However, I imagine if dancers ever went on strike, there'd be plenty of aspiring replacements to work as "scabs." (That is an unfortunate term given the exposed skin in this occupation, but whatever.)

    "Jersey_Boy" was taken.

    by New Jersey Boy on Wed Sep 11, 2013 at 11:34:23 AM PDT

    •  However, your replacements may not be able to (4+ / 0-)

      dance to the standard your customers expect. I've had friends who danced and gone to their clubs and watched them, and it's definitely its own skillset that takes time to learn and perfect.

      Plus, there's a lot of women who just don't want to take their tops off in front of men who are paying for the opportunity to look.

      When you come to find how essential the comfort of a well-kept home is to the bodily strength and good conditions, to a sound mind and spirit, and useful days, you will reverence the good housekeeper as I do above artist or poet, beauty or genius.

      by Alexandra Lynch on Wed Sep 11, 2013 at 12:27:48 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Well I know my standards have been set so high (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Alexandra Lynch

        thanks to being spoiled by The Randy Dandies that ordinary strippers like those mentioned in the article simply wouldn't be able to hold my interest at all.  After all, when you are used to every dance/striptease number being carefully choreographed with the music, costume, and routine all working together not to mention the other parts like the sketch comedy routines you have to admit that plain old exotic dancers at strip clubs seem pretty boring in comparison.

        You have watched Faux News, now lose 2d10 SAN.

        by Throw The Bums Out on Wed Sep 11, 2013 at 01:52:35 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Can we put aside the jokes for just a minute? (7+ / 0-)

    These women deserve just as much protection on the job as any other worker as to wages, hours, health and safety.

    Very often this private contractor status is company bullshit and just a clever form of wage theft.

    It needs to stop, so this is good news for all workers, not just for the strippers.

    God spare me the Heart to fight them... I'll fight the Pirates forever. -Mother Jones

    by JayRaye on Wed Sep 11, 2013 at 01:08:31 PM PDT

    •  What jokes? Am I missing stripper jokes here? (0+ / 0-)

      BTW, when I came back to Daily Kos after commenting on this thread, there was a banner ad for Cheetah's topless dancing club, or some such place.

      I've never seen that banner ad here (or anywhere actually).

      Creepy internet audience targeting.

      "Jersey_Boy" was taken.

      by New Jersey Boy on Wed Sep 11, 2013 at 08:26:51 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  there's a strip club (0+ / 0-)

    in the San Fernando Valley that's been a trouble spot for some time. They're saying that their (1000 or so) dancers are all independent contractors, therefore the club isn't responsible for what they do (with customers) after they leave the building.

    The club is also claiming that the pot dispensary next door is a trouble magnet. (I don't think the dispensary is open until 2am or selling alcohol.)

    (Is it time for the pitchforks and torches yet?)

    by PJEvans on Wed Sep 11, 2013 at 03:53:10 PM PDT

  •  You go, girl! (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    I’ve seen this a lot -- sometimes they’re called temps and sometimes they’re called contractors.

    When I worked at Microsoft as a tech writer (writing documentation), there were two different colored badges (red and blue, or whatever). Regular employees and temps. Sometimes someone would disappear because the temp contract ran out. (I was a regular employee, so I got stock options and health care, but the temps didn’t). I vaguely remember there was a lawsuit, which the temps won, so Microsoft changed the rules to say that after a temp left, he or she would have to wait for 3 months before coming back.

    When I worked at (briefly, during the Christmas season -- and someday I‘ll write about that job), I was a temp -- I got my paycheck from the temp agency. And Amazon was quick to fire people who didn’t show up on time or made stupid mistakes. The job lasted a couple months (I was unemployed and needed a job at that time) and I apparently did well enough that they wanted me to stay on after the Christmas rush, but they wanted me to work hours that conflicted with another job I had, so I said no thanks.

    When I have done stand-up comedy, I’ve always been a contractor. The booking agent would say, here’s the job for these nights, for this amount of money (one night or three nights or sometimes a whole week!). Here’s what we pay, plus you get a hotel room or maybe the comedy condo. Or maybe you sleep in the basement of the owner of the comedy club. Sometimes you have to drive 300 or 500 miles between gigs. Given the choice, you do what you have to do. For about $100-200 per night (but you pay for gas for your car out of your own pocket).

    I’ve been a normal 40-hour-a-week employee and I’ve done freelance/temp/contractor work.

    So I totally agree with what you say about strippers/exotic dancers being cheated out of getting paid. The people who own companies (usually Republicans) often try to cheat employees (usually Democrats) out of getting paid fairly. Whether it’s big companies or small companies.

    Exotic dancers are people who are doing their job and deserve fair wages.

    "Stupid just can't keep its mouth shut." -- SweetAuntFanny's grandmother.

    by Dbug on Wed Sep 11, 2013 at 09:12:01 PM PDT

  •  When I drove cab, the company classified us (4+ / 0-)

    as independent contractors.  In their eyes, we rented the cabs everyday for a flat rate plus mileage.  Of course, they also told us when we had to work, were responsible for our working conditions, and punished us when we broke their rules.

    A little after I left the company, the drivers went on strike for higher wages.  The company closed down instead, so the drivers formed a workers-owned cooperative.

    The efforts to repeal Obamacare are the GOP Abort Obamacare Act. lynneinfla

    by litho on Sat Sep 14, 2013 at 02:37:24 PM PDT

  •  I'm second wave enough to want to shut down all (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Whatithink, annieli

    businesses that profit by the objectification of women.

    But if we are going to allow that sort of disgusting patriarchal exploitation -- and we are, because this is a disgustingly patriarchal and exploitative society -- then the exploited women deserve whatever economic, physical, and medical safeguards we can get them.

    I'm also opposed to allowing handguns in general; but I would be tempted to make an exception for women in the sex industry.

  •  Doesn't everybody? (0+ / 0-)

    Why do we make such distinctions? What are we saying about ourselves when we do?

    I'm a simple person, so it may be beyond my capacity for understanding.

    The history of music is mortal, but the idiocy of the guitar is eternal. ― Milan Kundera, The Book of Laughter and Forgetting

    by James Earl on Sat Sep 14, 2013 at 02:38:55 PM PDT

  •  Why are they called "exotic" dancers? (0+ / 0-)

    the usual meaning of exotic is (per Free Online Dictionary)

    1. From another part of the world; foreign: exotic tropical plants in a greenhouse. See Synonyms at foreign.
    2. Intriguingly unusual or different; excitingly strange: "If something can be explained simply, in a familiar way, then it is best to avoid more exotic explanations" (Chet Raymo). See Synonyms at fantastic.
    3. Of or involving striptease: an exotic dancer
    if we go to "exotic dancer" it doesn't give anything more.

    At "online etymology dictionary" it just says origin is between 1950 and 55.

  •  Well, I know I only frequent such establishments (0+ / 0-)

    for hearty male camaraderie and the 56 inch TV behind the bar tuned to the latest game. Just like when I was a kid I only read PLAYBOY for the interviews with world leaders like Henry Kissinger.

  •  Who started calling them "exotic" dancers anyway? (3+ / 0-)

    Obviously what you mean is erotic dancers.

    "Exotic" dancers should be doing... like, traditional Balinese dance or some such.
    Besides sounding similar, the two adjectives have nothing to do with each other.
    And someone was so uptight as to think "erotic" is a dirty word, wouldn't they ban strip clubs altogether rather than a lame effort at euphemism?

    •  If you are talking about strip joints and such (0+ / 0-)

      then you are right.  However, if you think two adjectives always have nothing to do with each other you obviously haven't seen some of the fancy themed burlesque shows like they have in St Louis.  If you want specifics, the shows put on by the Randy Dandies are some of the best there are and often include things like fire tamers, sword jugglers, and plenty of sketch comedy as well.

      You have watched Faux News, now lose 2d10 SAN.

      by Throw The Bums Out on Sat Sep 14, 2013 at 03:15:59 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  wait, what? (0+ / 0-)
    having been paid "performance fees" rather than regular wages. Not only that, they had to pay the club a fee for every night they worked.
    what kind of fee? a fee for the privilege of working there?
  •  um.. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    not that   anyone cares..

    but truckers, raiload workers, movers and a lot of other grilouilops arent cilovered by osha, labor law etc etc etc.

    though to be fair thanks to the open hatred of truckers we're regulated to death in ways designed to keep us  stuck out,iliving in the cold and dark, and forcing wages lower

    A man is born as many men but dies as a single one.--Martin Heidegger

    by cdreid on Sat Sep 14, 2013 at 02:46:02 PM PDT

  •  I would agree with you if they (0+ / 0-)

    weren't women, they didn't do that sexy sex stuff, didn't out my fellow Republican family values people for visiting them, didn't mind making men rich while getting by, didn't tease me for hours on end and then refuse to come home with me, didn't refrain from wearing burkas which makes me horny and unable to control myself...


    The majority of elected Republicans and public scolds.

    Most of the people taking a hard line against us are firmly convinced that they are the last defenders of civilization... The last stronghold of mother, God, home and apple pie and they're full of shit! David Crosby, Journey Thru the Past.

    by Mike S on Sat Sep 14, 2013 at 02:54:28 PM PDT

  •  There are several club owners (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    in my area who are cooperating with local trafficking advocates to raise awareness about human trafficking and who are moving away from the model of dealing with "agents" to provide dancers, hiring dancers directly as employees. I wasn't aware of the labor issues involved in what they are doing until recently, but many of the owners who are not on board with this effort cite their overhead as the reason.

    I'll alert some of the folks who make this their focus-this ruling could potentially have a positive impact in the area of human trafficking. Weird sometimes, how everything sort of works together when the better interests of employees are a priority.


    If you have come here to help me, you are wasting our time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.-Aboriginal activists group, Queensland, 1970s

    by left rev on Sat Sep 14, 2013 at 03:10:24 PM PDT

  •  In related news, SF's "Lusty Lady" has closed. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Zack from the SFV

    If you've seen the documentary "Live Nude Girls Unite" you'll know how sad this is.

    According to the piece posted at CBS SanFran:

    General manager Scott Farrell said that while the workers own the club, they don’t own the North Beach building where rent was $5,500 a month in 2001 but now runs more than $16,000. That’s far more than the dancers and their wads of ones can manage.

    Mac OS X: The primary reason I don't own a gun.

    by here4tehbeer on Sat Sep 14, 2013 at 03:18:01 PM PDT

  •  Club Owners Will Demand H1-B Visas (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    raboof, arlene

    They'll claim there is a critical shortage of American strippers

    Men are so necessarily mad, that not to be mad would amount to another form of madness. -Pascal

    by bernardpliers on Sat Sep 14, 2013 at 03:28:41 PM PDT

  •  legal liability is another "indep. contractor" rea (0+ / 0-)

    Some establishments that feature nude or nearly nude dancers (female or male or both) want the dancers to be considered as "independent contractors" for reasons of legal liability and maintenance of the business's liquor license.

    Let's be honest here - for some establishments featuring nude or nearly nude dancers, female or male, there is zero sexual activity on or off premises and for other establishments , there is sexual activity, either on premises (private "lap dance" in a back room) or off premises (dancer makes "date" later with customer, possibly at customer hotel room).

    For the owner of the business, he or she prefers for that dancer who is performing sexual activity for pay (the lap dance that goes beyond a lap dance in the back room, the tryst in the hotel room after the dancer gets off work) to be deemed NOT an employee but rather an independent contractor.

    If the business owner has an "employee" performing sex on premises in a backroom out of sight of the owner / manager (wink wink) or after hours with a business customer in the customer's hotel room, the business owner could be subject to criminal prosecution and/or lose his or her liquor license.  If one of the business owner's "independent contractors" does the same acts, the owner can make the legal argument that the person was not his "employee" - so the business cannot be held liable, cannot be prosecuted and should not lose its liquor license.

    Such businesses have been treating their dancers as "independent contractors" at least in part for that reason for several decades.

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site