A jury recently awarded $196,956 in unpaid minimum wages and overtime to six adult dancers who filed a class action against two nightclubs where they worked. The presiding judge, Deborah K. Chasanow, tacked on an additional $68,320 in liquidated damages onto the jury award, bringing the dancers’ total recovery to $265,276.
In McFeeley v. Jackson Street Entertainment LLC et al., the dancers alleged that two nightclubs, Fuego’s Exotic Dance Club and Club Extasy Exotic Dance Club, classified them as independent contractors as a means to avoid paying individual wages and overtime compensation as required by Maryland and Federal law.
This case was one of a recent many that deal with how exotic dancers should be classified under employment laws. Club owners routinely claim their dancers are private contractors because the dancers receive their money directly from customers. In addition, club owners argue that dancers are not employees because they supply their own equipment, and are free to work at competing clubs.
In the present case, Judge Chasanow ruled that the dancers were in fact employees at the two nightclubs because the dancers were integral to the clubs’ business. Chasanow also held that the dancers were entitled liquidated damages under the FLSA, in addition to compensatory damages, because the club owners acted in bad faith by seeking to prevent the dancers from being classified as employees.