Wendi R. Morse, 27, and Felicia Kay Pennington, 26, claim Dancers Show Club owners violated federal labor laws by wrongly classifying them as independent contractors, according to a lawsuit filed Tuesday at U.S. District Court in Indianapolis. The women's lawyers are seeking class-action status.
A manager for Dancers Show Club called the lawsuit frivolous.
The lawsuit says the women worked only for tips, received no wages from the club and paid fees back to the club. At the same time, they had no control over their schedules, were barred from working at other clubs and, the suit says, were treated as employees, not independent contractors.
Philip J. Gibbons, one of the lawyers for the women, said the club classifies its dancers as contractors but exerts control over them as if they were employees.
"They don't have a choice to just show up once a month," Gibbons said. "The club sets requirements on when they need to be there and how long they have to stay."
Gibbons told reporters for the Indianapolis Star that the club requires entertainers to pay a fee of up to $30 to the house, depending on what time they arrive. The club also takes a portion of the dancers' tips for every VIP dance, which costs a client about $300. The entertainers also must give 10 percent of their tips to the disc jockey and 5 percent to the bartenders, Gibbons said.
One advocate said that the independent contractor system is designed to take advantage of the women.
"Good for the girls who are doing this," said Mary Taylor, a Canadian author and business owner who worked as a stripper for 21 years at clubs throughout North America. "It's easy to get into for a lot of women, but they are getting ripped off by these club owners. They are holding them hostage."
Taylor agreed with key allegations of the lawsuit, saying club owners routinely treat entertainers as independents — while telling them when to work and for how long, as well as taking a cut of their earnings. The fees are so high at some clubs that women may owe money after their shifts, Taylor said.
Morse and Pennington live in Marion County, where Indianapolis is located, and performed at Dancers within the last three years, according to the suit. Reporters could not reach Morse and Pennington for comment.
"It's a frivolous lawsuit, but we'll see what happens," Dancers manager Jason Huddleson told reporters. He declined to comment further on the lawsuit.