A federal judge in Florida ruled in favor of a group of exotic dancers in their case against two South Florida clubs, finding that the dancers were employees, not contractors under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).
U.S. District Judge William P. Dimitrouleas issued his ruling late on Friday, March 17 denying Faneuil Entertainment Inc. and Set Enterprises Inc. – the owners of the Cheetah-branded clubs in Pompano Beach and Hallandale Beach – a summary judgment.
“We are very pleased with the court’s decision and look forward to pursuing damages rightfully available to the entertainer/dancers who worked at the clubs during the five-year liability period,” said John B. Gallager, the attorney representing the dancers.
Judge Dimitrouleas’ order rejected the club owner’s counterclaims that alleged unjust enrichment and a breach of contract and requested that the tips and fees the dancers owed the club should offset any overtime and unpaid minimum wages.
The dancers filed their lawsuit in October of 2015, where they alleged that the club owners had willfully misclassified hundreds of dancers as independent contractors, rather than as employees. In the suit, they claimed that the dancers were only paid through tips from customers.
The owners attempted to push back against these claims by stating that the dancers in their clubs were licensees who paid the clubs “modest fees” in return for a space to perform, collect fees and tips from customers and use the facilities. The club owners also claimed that the dancers were not given a set schedule or duties to perform, and were free to create their own show from the music to the costumes.
The plaintiffs fought back against this claim, stating that the club owners were in charge of both hiring and firing the entertainers, enforcing rules and tracking their schedules. They argued that the economic reality of the business relationship was that of an employer and an employee, not of an independent contractor.
“Without exotic dancers, the clubs would be ordinary bars, not strip clubs,” said Judge Dimitrouleas. He noted that the arguments against that claim were “simply unconvincing,” and “absurd.”
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