Nevada Supreme Court: Strip Club Dancers Are Employees

Rhett Pardon

CARSON CITY, Nev. — Adult entertainers who danced at Sapphire Gentlemen’s Club in Las Vegas were employees and not independent contractors, according to the Nevada Supreme Court, which ruled that 6,500 dancers could be eligible for millions of dollars in back wages.

Yesterday's unanimous decision, 7-0, sends the case back to a lower court to determine how much the dancers are owed.

Sapphire Gentlemen’s Club, billed as the “World’s Largest Strip Club,” maintained it merely provided a venue for the dancers and that "exotic dancing is customarily performed by independent contractors and therefore is not an integral part of Sapphire's business."

But the high court said that Sapphire management dictated dancers’ appearance and interaction with customers, as well as work schedules. The performers also paid fees to the club's management and the disc jockey.

"Sapphire is actually able to 'heavily monitor [the performers], including dictating their appearance, interactions with customers, work schedules and minute to minute movements when working,' while ostensibly ceding control to them," the justices said in the ruling.

"This reality undermines Sapphire's characterization of the 'choices' it offers performers and the freedom it suggests that these choices allow them; the performers are, for all practical purposes, 'not on a pedestal, but in a cage.'"

With the ruling, the high court reversed the lower court's pre-trial summary judgment in favor of Sapphire Gentlemen's Club and remanded the class-action suit for further proceedings consistent with the opinion.

View Nevada Supreme Court opinion