Are strippers employees, or just independent contractors working for tips? A lawsuit filed against Dallas' all-nude Jaguars settled on Wednesday, leaving us no answer, at least in this case.
The plaintiffs in the suit, 182 women who worked for the club's outlets in Texas and Arizona, will divvy up $1.54 million, the chunk of the settlement that will remain after their lawyers get their 33 percent. That's $8,461.54 each, or about 1,167 hours worth of minimum wages. The strippers claimed that they often worked more the 40 hours a week without overtime pay, were required to pay a fee just to dance and forced to tip out to bartenders, DJs and house moms, among others. Each of those conditions, and the fact that they weren't paid a wage at all, would be a violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act were the women found to be employees.
Jaguars did not admit fault and is seemingly prepared to continue being staffed with strippers it doesn't consider employees. It settled, according to court documents, to avoid a protracted legal battle. The plaintiffs accepted the settlement because they were convinced that the club was prepared to take the case as far as the 5th U.S Circuit Court of Appeals had the plaintiffs won in U.S. district court.
In 2011, just after the suit was filed, Jaguars owner Brian Foster told the Observer that the dancers at his club were better off as contractors.
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"Once they hear what it's like for an employee, that they get scheduled, that they have to give up their tips to the house, because that's the house's money ... the amount of money it costs the dancer is definitely terrifying the dancers," Foster says. "Once the rubber hits the road, they're running to the hills."
All lawsuits like the one settled Wednesday do, he said, is make lawyers rich.
Jaguars continues to fight a separate legal battle with the city of Dallas as the city tries to shut the club down after 15 people were indicted by the feds for dealing drugs out of Jaguars' after-hours rave. Jaguars denied knowledge of the drug activity in its official response to the suit, filed Tuesday.