Judge rules strippers are employees

A U.S. District Court judge recently sided with dancers employed at the DeKalb County strip club Pin Ups and said they deserve the same benefits as all businesses employees. Photo by Daniel Beauregard

A U.S. District judge ruled that the management of DeKalb County strip club Pin Ups must classify its dancers as employees, rather than general contractors, because of the essential services they provide.

Judge Thomas Thrash said in a 13-page opinion released Dec. 31 that it was clear under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) that the strippers employed at Pin Ups are entitled to minimum wage and overtime compensation.

According to court documents, a manual of Pin Ups’ general policies and procedures was provided to each stripper. The manual outlined rules of conduct and also detailed fee requirements due when each dancer arrived for their shift. This included a house fee, a DJ fee, and a house mom fee. House moms supervise the girls dancing to make sure they follow the rules.

The suit was filed on behalf of dancers Martisha Stevenson and Elisha Hunter against The Great American Dream Inc., the company that manages Pin Ups. Attorneys for The Great American Dream CEO James Lee contend that Lee was erroneously included as a defendant in the lawsuit and that the dancers were properly classified as independent contractors.

Stevenson and Hunter have been employees of Pin Ups since 2005 and 2006, respectively.

“It is clear that the plaintiffs were ‘employees’ under the FLSA,” Judge Thrash said. “The defendants frequently reiterate that the facts must be reviewed in the light most favorable to the defendants. However, there is little dispute regarding the underlying facts of the plaintiffs’ employment arrangement with the defendants.”

Thrash also said that Pin Ups exerted a significant amount of control over the plaintiffs; issued an employee handbook to those it hired decided which songs the women dance to.

“The plaintiffs and Pin Ups did not share equally in the opportunities for profit and loss,” Thrash said. “The Plaintiffs’ services were an integral part of Pin Ups’ business. Pin Ups is an adult entertainment club and so it needs adult entertainers. Kelly Campbell, the general manager of Pin Ups, acknowledged this, Thrash wrote.

Thrash released an opinion and partial summary judgment in the case, which is a class-action suit. The opinion states that the dancers working at Pin Ups should be considered employees under the FSLA rather than contractors. The case is ongoing.

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