OMAHA, Neb. (AP) – A Wisconsin woman is suing the eastern Nebraska strip club where she works, saying the owner has not paid her or other dancers an hourly wage or overtime in the three years she has been there.
Elizabeth Mays is accusing Shakers of Waverly of labeling its exotic dancers as independent contractors to avoid paying hourly wages, overtime and Social Security taxes for dancers. But Mays’ lawyer says she and other dancers at Shakers fit the legal definitions of employees, because the club regulates when and how long they will work, what they wear, how long they dance and when they will strip.
“They even have to do janitorial work,” attorney Vince Powers of Lincoln said Friday. “They have to clean the bathrooms.”
The lawsuit was filed Thursday in Lancaster County District Court.
Powers said Mays’ only income from dancing at Shakers has come from tips that customers paid. And from those tips, she had to pay the club owner a flat fee in “rent” for her space on the stage, he said.
Powers dismissed the club owner’s analogy that the dancers are like hairstylists who rent a station from a salon. Instead, Powers said, the dancers are more akin to wait staff at a restaurant.
“You can’t claim that the bartenders and the servers are independent contractors, because their movements are controlled by the employer,” Powers said. “It’s the same with the dancers.”
Shakers owner Dan Robinson did not immediately return a message seeking comment Friday.
Powers pointed to a 2001 Nebraska State Workers’ Compensation Court ruling against Shakers that ruled dancers are employees. That case, also handled by Powers’ law firm, came about when an exotic dancer injured on the job at Shakers was denied workers’ compensation benefits.
Several other exotic dancers have since contacted Powers’ firm looking to sue various strip clubs in the state, Powers said.
Mays is seeking class-action status with her lawsuit, meaning it would cover all exotic dancers who have worked at Shakers since 2000. The lawsuit also is calling for the club owner to be barred from retaliating against the dancers.
Mays wants back pay and interest, as well as punitive and other damages and attorneys’ fees. Powers said Mays’ back wages amount to “tens of thousands of dollars.”