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Strippers and Nurses Unite!!

Department of Fair Employment and HousingStrippers and Nurses Unite!!

Well, not really.

In a coincidental happenstance that is probably the subject of many men’s fantasies, strippers and nurses groups have filed similar employment law claims in California recently.  Though the two groups have nothing to do with each other in reality, their claims certainly do.

Employees of the Pink Poodle, a San Jose strip club filed a suit recently claiming that they have been improperly classified as independent contractors rather than employees.  The misclassification carries with it drawbacks such as an increased tax burden, no payment for overtime hours worked, denial of benefits and no minimum wage.

According to the group (11 former pole dancers), they were often paid nothing at all, and sometimes had to pay management in order to work there.  In addition, they were threatened with retaliation should they seek to complain about the unfair treatment.

The effort to reclassify exotic dancers as employees rather than independent contractors is not unheard of.  At least two other suits, one in New York and one in here in California both went in favor of the dancers. Prior to filing a lawsuit based on discriminatory acts, you must first complain to the state agency charged with enforcement in order to “exhaust your administrative remedies”. In this case, the state agency would be the Department of Fair Employment and Housing.

The California case, against the Spearmint Rhino was filed in federal court on behalf of dancers across the nation.  It recently settled for approximately $13 million.  Strippers at the Rhino sometimes earned nearly $500,000 dollars a year in tips, but paid most of that money back to the club in ‘stage fees,’ rent, overhear costs, disc jockey fees and penalties in cases where they couldn’t get men to purchase a certain number of drinks per hour.

In the settlement, owners of the Rhino agreed that they will not treat the dancers as independent contractors in the future, but did not go so far as to say that they would be classified as employees.  Rather, they may be treated as shareholders, or part owners.  That classification was left open.  They will not be charged stage fees in the future, however.

Some strippers across the nation are opposed to the move to have them classified as employees.  Earning and hourly wage (and possibly commissions rather than all of their tips) and being beholden to club managers makes some ladies want to take off their shoes (as opposed to everything else), and retire for good.

In a similar, but less titillating case, healthcare workers for Prime Healthcare Paradise Valley, recently filed suit alleging that hourly employees were not paid for overtime hours worked and for not allowing employees to take required adequate meal and rest breaks.

The proposed class action (Ortega, et al. vs. Prime Healthcare Paradise Valley, LLC, Case No. 37-2014-00011240) filed by Paradise Valley hospital employees alleges that Prime Healthcare fails to take into account differential wages for working weekend and night shifts in the regular rate of pay when calculating overtime pay. The error has resulted in a “systematic underpayment of overtime compensation” to the employees, according to the complaint. Further, the complaint also accuses Prime Healthcare of not properly paying overtime to its employees for the past four years and did not provide workers complete meal and rest breaks, which is a violation of the California Labor Code Section 226.7 and 512.

Prime Healthcare, which is headquartered in Ontario, California, has more than 30,000 employees, according to its website.

This could result in significant damages in the class action lawsuit, when you take into account the sheer number of employees, plus attorney’s fees and expenses.  We will keep an eye on both of these cases, though many times when they settle out of court, as in the Spearmint Rhino case mentioned above, the terms are kept confidential.  If they proceed to trial, either one of these cases could have far reaching consequences for employers and employees alike.

If you have been the victim of misclassification as an independent contractor when in fact you should have been considered an employee, if you have been denied wage rights or meal and rest breaks, or if you have not been paid properly for overtime hours worked, contact Stephen Danz & Associates today at (877) 789-9707 or use the Contact Form on our website to schedule a free consultation.  Stephen and one of his associates will sit down with you in a location that is convenient to your work, school or home and discuss the facts of your case, outlining any possible causes of action you may have.  With over 30 years of experience representing employees across the state of California, Stephen Danz is the clear choice for defending you against the unlawful acts of your employer.