Strippers awarded $250,000 in back pay suit
Two San Antonio strippers, Alexis Alex (27) and Nicolette Prieto (31), who were working in Tiffany’s Cabaret have been given $250,000 as compensation in a payback suit. The matter involved years of back pay and violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act.
The strippers were never allowed to keep all of the money they received as a tip, rather the same was distributed in part to the DJ and in part to the manager. In distributing the same, Tiffany’s considered the tips as ‘service charges’.
The eight-member jury determined that the violation was a result of the willful non-payment of minimum wages. The initial jury award of $121,923 (specifically, $60,962 to Alex and $65,008 to Prieto) was challenged by lawyers, Robert Debes and Rick Prieto, arguing that the club did no good faith effort to remedy their legal shortfalls and that a payment of double the compensation as liquidated damages was required to be paid to their clients.
In doubling the damages, Senior U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth held that the club did not operate in good faith and that Tiffany’s did not treat its strippers as independent contractors, but as actual employees. However, he also agreed with Dean Fuchs, the club’s lawyer, that the shortcomings were likely due to bad advice from its accounting firm.
In a similar case in New York, Federal District judge, Paul A. Engelmayer ordered Rick’s Cabaret to pay $10 million in back wages to more than 2000 dancers. The judge ruled that the women in this profession were considered as hourly employees and not independent contractors. Hart v. Rick’s Cabaret Int’l, Inc., 09 Civ. 3043 (PAE), 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 160264.
Over the past one year, these dancers across the country have won cases after cases on occasion of such gentlemen strip clubs cutting down wages and tips of their strippers. In order to handle the situation and protect the rights of these strippers, the employers should consider the fact that their employees fall under the purview of hourly employees and not independent contractors.