Exotic Dancers Sue for Appropriate Employment Status
Women claim they were misclassified as independent contractors
In today’s so-called gig economy, a large percentage of workers are
finding themselves classified as independent contractors.
The trouble is that many of these people act as employees, but aren’t
entitled to any of the perks that go along with that classification, such
as benefits, employer-withheld taxes, or overtime.
So what happens when misclassified workers fight back and demand proper
employment status? A recent court case provides some insight.
Entertainers, not employees
The owners of Jackson Street Entertainment, a company that operated a chain
of “gentlemen’s clubs,” didn’t actually employ
any of the exotic dancers that drew patrons to the business.
Rather, it hired all of its entertainers as independent contractors. The
women were required to sign contracts that stated that they were leasing
club space while performing. They were also required to pay an entrance
fee before each shift.
The women’s compensation consisted entirely of tips. They did not
receive an hourly wage.
Six of the women decided to band together and sue the company. They alleged
that they were misclassified as independent contractors. They pointed
out that the clubs held the dancers accountable to certain rules and fired
women who did not comply. The women asserted that the club also determined
their schedules and fees.
The company contested the lawsuit. It argued that the women were properly
classified because they were allowed to work at other clubs, to make their
own schedules, and to decide how and when they performed.
The company lost. The court ruled that the women had been improperly classified
under the Fair Labor Standards Act. The club owners were ordered to pay
$265,000 in back pay and damages.
(For more information, see McFeeley v. Jackson Street Entertainment.)
How to determine status
If you suspect that you’ve been misclassified as an independent contractor,
it’s important to know that the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) has
a framework for determining who is an employee and who is an independent
The DOL uses the following six questions as a basis for examining individual
employment relationships. Ask yourself: