Dancers sue strip club over wages
Five dancers at a Grand Junction strip club say in a federal lawsuit they should be treated as employees.
The owner of Fantasy Gentlemen’s Club said the lawsuit looks more like a money grab than a legal dispute.
The lawsuit amounts to a warning shot to the adult entertainment industry, said Denver attorney Mari Newman, who said she expects more plaintiffs to join the class-action suit she filed against the club.
Fantasy’s treatment of its dancers is “illegal, but not unique,” and the legal action is intended to “send a message to the adult entertainment industry” that it can’t treat its performers as independent contractors and must treat them as employees, Newman said Tuesday.
“What this case highlights is that the adult-entertainment industry thinks it can exploit certain categories of workers because they’re vulnerable,” Newman said.
The arrangement between Fantasy and its dancers is nothing unusual, Fantasy owner Kevin Eardley said.
“I went off all the other gentlemen’s clubs in Colorado” in establishing the relationship between the business and performers, Eardley said.
Most of the dancers at Fantasy have worked at other clubs and each signs a lease in order to perform, Eardley said, noting that the employment status of performers is a “hot topic” in the adult-entertainment industry.
Eardley and Newman offered competing comparisons for the relationship between performers and the house.
Newman likened it to a server at a restaurant who receives minimum wage and can earn overtime wages and other benefits.
Eardley said the relationship is similar that of a stylist in a salon who leases an area and works independently.
The dancers, he said, lease a stage knowing the workings of the system.
“These girls make $300 to $800 a night and sometimes quite a bit more than that,” Eardley said. The plaintiffs in the lawsuit are “just looking for some free money,” he said.
Eardley and Fantasy “have and continue to unjustly and illegally enrich themselves at these employees’ expense,” denying the performers minimum wages, overtime and their full tips, the lawsuit says.
Dancers are expected to pay 7 percent of their tips each to disc jockeys and security, according to the complaint, which features photographs of various house rules.
Dancers are under strict rules that prohibit them from trading shifts, leaving early, canceling shifts because of illness or leaving early because of a lack of business.
Fines levied by Fantasy for rules violations amount to illegal kickbacks, according to the suit. Dancers who have worked at Fantasy at any time during the last three years could join the suit.
Plaintiffs named in the suit are performers Jessica Mason, Michelle Cross, Allison Stebbing and Jamie Tencza, and Newman said she expected many more to join the suit, which arose under the Fair Labor Standards Act. Dancers don’t use their lawful names, Eardley said, noting that he was surprised to be sued by his own performers.
No hearings have been scheduled in the case.