The policy of hiring dancers as independent contractors instead of employees is an industry-wide standard.
  • The policy of hiring dancers as independent contractors instead of employees is an industry-wide standard.
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A former dancer at Goldfingers Gentlemen’s Club on Miramar Road has filed a class-action lawsuit faulting her ex-employer of failing to pay a living wage. It is the second class-action lawsuit filed against strip clubs this year: last month a former dancer at Cheetahs made similar accusations.

The lawsuit, originally filed in state court in April of this year, was moved to federal court this week. Attorneys for Goldfingers estimate that if all dancers join the class-action lawsuit and if a judge rules in their favor the lawsuit could mean a $5,000,000 payout by the club.

The woman, known as Jane Doe, says that dancers and other employees were not given breaks during long shifts, nor were they paid an hourly wage. Instead, dancers relied on tips from patrons for onstage and private dances.

"[Dancers were] forced to pay fees or tip out the DJ and/or bouncer, and/or 'house' for each dance performed...failure to comply with Goldfingers' request would prevent her or her colleagues from procuring or retaining employment with Goldfingers," reads the suit.

The club's policy of hiring dancers as independent contractors instead of employees is an industry-wide standard, one that some general managers say benefits both the club and the dancer.

"When we hire an entertainer, they are given the choice of being an employee or a space lessee, much like a hairdresser," said Cheetahs general manager Rich Buonantony in a June 22 email. "As an independent contractor, the girl comes and goes as she pleases, basically does what she wants whereas, an employee comes in set hours, dances who we tell them to dance for, and so forth. The women I have here prefer to be independent contractors."

During the course of the past couple of years, strippers across the country have filed similar lawsuits. As a result, some strip clubs were ordered to pay out hefty sums to the women. In 2012, according to media reports, Santa Barbara strip joint Spearmint Rhino paid $12.9 million to dancers in their lawsuit.

Both San Diego cases will work their way through the courts.

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Comments

Visduh July 17, 2015 @ 9:02 p.m.

One more of many, many examples of employers trying to play the "independent contractor" game. And it looks as if it will be one more "industry" (if I dare call it that) where the practice ends up smacked down. Forty years ago, I was hearing stories of factories in Texas where all the workers were treated as IC's. Of course, wage-and-hour or labor standards enforcement was always treated lightly in that state and others in the southeast. But since the Texans were getting away with it, the practice spread to other states, including this one. Too many employees were happy to avoid payroll tax deductions, and they would conveniently forget to report such earnings on tax returns, unless the payor issued a Form 1099. But many of the employers just never seemed to send out the notices, and hence the employee worked tax free. Hey, what's wrong with that? Uh, qualifying for unemployment benefits, workers comp, disability payments and any sort of leave policy for a start. But farther down the road, all those unreported wages don't count for social security, 'cause as far as the feds are concerned, they never happened. Too many savvy employees outsmarted themselves and ended up with no money and no retirement.

Without making any judgment about stripping for fun and profit, it does seem to me that those honeys are anything but "independent." I'd guess that most of them are very dependent on the club where they dance, dependent upon the goodwill of the boss, and dependent upon the vagaries of which men have the bucks on which night, who will tip them well, and upon keeping their erotic good looks for a few more years.

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nostalgic July 18, 2015 @ 9:13 a.m.

In many small businesses, mostly young people work without even knowing that they are independent contractors. Then the 1099 comes, and all of a sudden, they are responsible for ALL of their Social Security Contributions, plus any income tax (none having been with-held), and there is a rude awakening. At that point, they become un-employed, and a new generation of young (usually student workers) comes along to replace them.

2

Visduh July 18, 2015 @ 12:15 p.m.

For sure, some are caught unaware of the implications of being paid that way. But many young ones don't realize all the protections that come with being en employee, and just think it's cool that they don't have any of the pay deducted. It's worse when they get a 1099-Misc that forces them to report the income and pay the self employment tax. But not all the employers ever send out 1099's, and the worst abusers are among that group.

0

monaghan July 18, 2015 @ 1:16 p.m.

Then we have the "independent contractor" farmworker who labors in the fields and orchards of California, whose employer-of-record is not the grower but a middleman who hires and fires, establishes (substandard) working conditions and often withholds pay without recourse for the farmworker, whether she is undocumented or legal. "Independent contractor" means a way to dodge union protections for workers.

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AlexClarke July 19, 2015 @ 6:11 a.m.

Monaghan: The independent contractor scam is a way many employers use to dodge everything, taxes, labor law, you name it. It is the same kind of scam that employers use when "paying by the job" instead of by the hour. There are very few real independent contractors just unethical employers using the tax code to dodge their tax responsibilities.

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