The following is from Patrick Johnson's article:
"The suit in Springfield, filed by three strippers, two bartenders and two disc jockeys against Mardi Gras Entertainment Inc., and its owners James and Helen Santaniello, of Longmeadow, and Anthony Santaniello, of Springfield, alleges management paid them no salaries, denying them benefits including the state’s minimum wage of $2.63 per hour for employees who also receive tips and overtime. It also charges the clubs required the dancers to pay a $40 to $100 fee for each shift.
A class-action suit filed by exotic dancers over what they say are unfair labor practices at the Mardi Gras and four other area strip clubs parallels a [previous] suit filed by dancers earlier this year against a club in the city of Chelsea, the lawyer for the Springfield area dancers said Friday. Tod A. Cochran, lawyer with the Boston law firm of Pyle Rome Ehrenberg, went so far as to say the two cases are nearly identical. “They are not different in any important way,” he said.
The Chelsea case, filed against King Arthur’s Lounge, involves dancers who said the club classified them as independent contractors, rather than employees, and as such denied them minimum wage and other benefits, charged them a $35 fee per shift and kept $10 of every $30 they received for private dances.
In August, Suffolk Superior Court Justice Frances A. McIntyre ruled the management of King Arthur’s erroneously classified the dancers as independent contractors. The ruling allows the class action suit to proceed and opened the door for as many as 70 women who danced at the club to seek thousands in damages for lost wages. Since then, numerous similar suits have been filed against strip clubs across the state. The suit in Springfield, filed by three strippers, two bartenders and two disc jockeys against Mardi Gras Entertainment Inc., and its owners James and Helen Santaniello, of Longmeadow, and Anthony Santaniello, of Springfield, alleges management paid them no salaries, denying them benefits including the state’s minimum wage of $2.63 per hour for employees who also receive tips and overtime. It also charges the clubs required the dancers to pay a $40 to $100 fee for each shift.
Mardi Gras Entertainment Inc., since renamed The Worthington Shops, operates five strip clubs, the Mardi Gras, Lace, Fifth Alarm and Center Stage in Springfield and Anthony’s in South Hadley.
In Massachusetts, a worker is considered an employee unless three conditions are met. The worker must be free from control and direction in the performance of a service, the service is done outside the usual course of business of the employer, and the worker is engaged in an independently established trade that is the same as the service performed. Massachusetts law places the burden of proof on the employer, and failure to any one of the three conditions is sufficient to establish employment. In the Chelsea case, Judge McIntyre determined King Arthur’s, on all three conditions, “mis-classified its dancers as independent contractors and not employees.”
Boston lawyer Barry Miller, representing the Worthington Shops, said he could say little about the case and was not interested in a war of words with the lawyer for the other side. “I’m not inclined to respond to out of court from Mr. Cochran.” The suit has been filed in Hampden Superior Court, and Miller said the Worthington Shops now have until March 3 to file a response with the court. After that, a determination will be made on whether it has merit to proceed. Miller said he is familiar with the King Arthur ruling and suggested the two cases are not nearly as similar as Cochrane suggest. “We believe the situation at the Mardi Gras is different from the situation at King Arthur’s,” he said. He declined to elaborate. Cochrane said if the class suit is allowed to continue, it could be extended beyond the seven people listed as plaintiffs to several hundred people who have worked in the five clubs during the past three years.
“The customers are not just coming there to drink beer, they’re coming to see beautiful women dance in the nude,” he said. “To not pay them (the dancers) for their work is unfair..” Meanwhile some patrons of clubs in downtown Springfield said they did not know very much about the lawsuit and didn’t care to comment. An older patron at the Mardi Gras did express sympathy for the dancers. “I’ve been coming to these places for a lot of years and I can’t believe what they have to do for a dollar,” said the man who declined to give his name. Another patron, smoking a cigarette outside the 5th Alarm on Worthington Street, said in relation to the suit, “I’m only here to see the girls. I don’t really care.”
I really love the patron comments!
Patrick Johnson did a yeoman's job of laying out the basic issue, these strip club operators are saying in effect that dancers are "exempt" from wage and hour protections because they are "independent contractors." The controlling analysis in "independent contractor" claims is the degree to which the "employer" exercised "control." "Control" can be defined by many differrent elements of the relationship but primarily relates to who determines and controls the times, tools and tasks to be performed.
For these women to be independent contractors you would have to believe that these dancers were entertainers, with their own costume departments, who are able to choosing the terms, conditions and times of their performances. That the clubs exist as mere concert like venues for these artists to perform their acts. Uh, huh.
My dear friend, retired tax denier, rightwing Chuck, knew a bunch of these Strip club operators. If you want to get quickly depreseed about a dirty business exploiting young women, talk to Chuck. According to Chuck the dirtbags that usually operate these clubs are as a rule pretty disgusting characters. These (usually) young women are often drug dependent, debased, and degraded by "businessmen" who are not much more than pimps.
I hope Mr. Cochran and his colleagues nail these