In a recent Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) case in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, a federal judge ruled in favor of class of
strippers exotic dancers and determined that they were actually employees rather than independent contractors. According to Law360, the facts were these: Former exotic dancers at Manhattan strip club gentlemen’s club Rick’s Cabaret brought a minimum wage class action against club operator Peregrine Enterprises Inc. Seriously? Exotic dancers at a very popular club in Manhattan are suing over minimum wage? I suppose no professions are immune from economic downturns. Because of their independent contractor status, the plaintiffs weren’t paid wages while working at Rick’s, but instead, received “performance fees” for “dances” with customers. However, the named plaintiffs argued that they truly were employees of Rick’s and were therefore entitled to a minimum wage. U.S. District Judge Paul Engelmayer agreed with the plaintiffs and ruled that they were, in fact, employees of the midtown Manhattan club and that Peregrine was their employer.
In reaching his decision, the Judge applied the five factor “economic realities” test. Of course, that is a standard test to determine whether agents of a business are employees or contractors. The test has nothing to do with the economic realities of whether an exotic dancer should be entitled to the minimum wage. While the outcome of the case appears favorable the dancers, the judge wasn’t quite ready to make it rain just yet. Although he ruled that the dancers were employees, he refused to grant summary judgment because a question remained as to whether they are solely employees of Peregrine or whether they were also employees of Rick’s Cabaret International Inc. and RCI Entertainment (New York) Inc. We’ll have to keep a close eye on the future of this litigation, won’t we?
The case in question is Hart v. Rick’s Cabaret Intern., Inc., — F. Supp. 2d —-, No. 09 Civ. 3043-PAE (S.D.N.Y September 10, ,2013).