Stripper Labor Rights 101
1. Strippers, exotic dancers, showgirls, lapdancers, peep show dancers, & erotic entertainers are EMPLOYEES.
Stripping is a J-O-B. Strippers will never be independent contractors. It doesn’t matter if the boss calls a stripper an independent contractor or if it’s a term she applies to herself. The reality is that the way strip clubs operate, the strippers working in them can only be employees. It’s because management must exercise a certain amount of control over working conditions or else there would be chaos. Some might argue that management create more disorder with their policies than order…. Management need to figure out which dancers are going to work on any given shift; how many shifts there are in a day; how many hours each shift runs; many decide what dancers may wear at work; how many dances she perform on stage, etc….The reason why strip clubs misclassify strippers as “independent contractors” is to dodge their employer obligations. The irony is that clubs say you’re an independent contractor but actually treat you like an employee.
2. Strip club employers must pay all their workers minimum wages—at least.
Strip club employers must also pay into social security, worker’s compensation, employer taxes, & a slew of others good things that workers in any other industry are guaranteed as employees. Personally, I think that strippers should get paid far more than minimum wages. After all, not every chick is willing to take her clothes off in front of random strangers & gyrate on their laps to arouse them! The management like the money strippers make for their business, but they don’t want to pay these women for their labor. THIS IS ILLEGAL.
3. State labor laws state that it is illegal for an employer (here, the strip club owner) to take any portion of his/her employee’s (here, the stripper) tips.
To add insult to injury, management charge strippers for the privilege to work! You know: those stage fees, quotas, commissions, piece rate system, locker fees, booking fees, etc, etc…. It’s also illegal for employers to require strippers to tip other employees (DJ, House Mom, Manager, etc). Management minimally pay non-stripper staff and expect strippers to underwrite the remainder of their wages. Why are these fees-to-work illegal? Because strippers earn their money through tips that customers provide for them. Strippers use their tips to pay management these illegal mandatory fees. THIS IS ILLEGAL.
Were you misclassified as an independent contractor?
Did management fail to pay you minimum wages?
Did you have to pay management to work?
If you said “yes” to one or more of these questions, your labor rights were violated.
Take action to assert your labor rights!
- Join other strippers (current & former) who are trying to stop these illegal labor practices. Identify other women at your club who don’t want to pay to work anymore!
- Demand that your city agencies enforce state and city labor laws so strip club owners must comply with the law.
- File a wage an hour labor complaint against a strip club employer to get back the fees that you paid to work plus your minimum wages. You maybe able to go back 3 to 5 years from the time that you quit to file with the state’s Labor Commission and Department of Labor Standards Enforcement to recuperate your back wages & tips. Check your state Labor Commission for specifics on filing statue of limitations as they vary state by state. They often have staff who can help you fill out your complaint application.
- If you were discriminated against while on the job, consider filing a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Here’s what EEOC says: “[They are] responsible for enforcing federal laws that make it illegal to discriminate against a job applicant or an employee because of the person’s race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy), national origin, age (40 or older), disability or genetic information. It is also illegal to discriminate against a person because the person complained about discrimination, filed a charge of discrimination, or participated in an employment discrimination investigation or lawsuit.” This includes sexual harassment.
To file a labor complaint with your state’s Labor Commission or Department of Labor, you will need to fill out a wage complaint application.
Keep track of the following:
- the days that you worked (keep a separate calendar just for your strip club job)
- how many hours you worked each shift (count from the time you began dressing & putting on makeup until you leave the premises at the end of your shift. Include the time you spend cashing out at the end of the night when management take your tips. Include all hours worked overtime.
- how much you paid out every shift in stage fees; commissions; mandatory tip outs to the DJs, house mom, manager; fines; mandatory uniform purchases (ex. stilletoes, g-strings, pasties, evening gown, make up–things that you only wear for work), etc.
- how much you were required to purchase in club merchandise to re-sell to customers. This includes money that comes out of your own pocket to pay for things like club T-shirts, cigars, etc.
- any receipts that the management provided you for paying stage fees including IOUs they might have issued to you when you didn’t make your quota, etc
- any house rules or contracts that the management made you sign as a condition of your employment
- what the minimum wages were over the time that you worked (these rates vary over time & the Labor Commission has exact details of this–ask them). In cities like San Francisco, they have set a higher minimum wage than the state, which can take precedence. Contact your city officials to find out if this applies to your city.