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By John McCoy
A Virginia strip club is being sued for allegedly failing to pay wages to as many as 100 exotic dancers.
Valerie Oliver says MGB Inc., which operates under the name Pure Pleasure, hasn’t paid her in more than three years, leaving customer gratuities as her only income for her years of service. The establishment’s owners don’t pay the staff in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act, erroneously categorize the exotic dancers as “independent contractors,” and don’t maintain records of the number of hours worked, Oliver alleges. She filed the complaint Feb. 10 in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia on behalf of herself and other dancers at the Richmond strip club.
The employment status of exotic dancers is a common issue in employment-related litigation. In a similar case from last February, adult entertainment chain Deja Vu Services Inc. agreed to pay $6.5 million to settle a class action lawsuit involving as many as 50,000 current and former dancers across 64 clubs nationwide. That agreement also created a process under which dancers would have a say in their employment classification.
The employee-versus-contractor matter has been adjudicated in courts from the Nevada state system to the U.S. Court ofAppeals for the Fourth Circuit. In the latter, the Department of Labor supported the contention that dancers are employees protected by the FLSA. The agency had already released an administrator’s interpretation outlining its position on the dichotomy but submitted an amicus brief to the appeals court reiterating its view. The agency under the new leadership of Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta has since withdrawn that interpretation.
In recent decisions, courts have taken to using a multi-factor test to determine what constitutes an independent contractor. Among the factors considered are the permanence of the relationship, the degree of control that the principal holds over the worker, and which party determines the hours of employment. In her complaint, Oliver says that during her three-plus years at Pure Pleasure, management has regulated staff attire and the length and scope of customer interactions. Additionally, management makes the work schedules for all dancers.
Oliver says that since being hired at the club, she has never been paid “a single penny” in wages by the club. According to the lawsuit, she was also never paid overtime, despite being required to attend meetings beyond her scheduled shifts.
Oliver had to pay the club at least $100 per shift, and in the months prior to the lawsuit, as much as $300 per shift, she says. This doesn’t include “fines” that are incurred for late arrivals, missed shifts, or a violation of any of the club rules. This practice amounts to a kickback scheme that effectively means the staff is paying to work, rather than being paid, the complaint says.
WIlliam Pyliaris, owner of MGB Inc., is no stranger to lawsuits of this kind. As recently as January, he was the defendant in a class action lawsuit for allegedly violating the FLSA. As of July 2017, he owned seven strip clubs in the Richmond metro area. The January lawsuit named five of his properties as defendants.
Efforts to contact MGB and its owner were unsuccessful. No representative from Pure Pleasure was immediately available for comment.
Stephen B. Pershing of Pershing Law PLLC and Harlan S. Miller III of Miller Legal P.C. represent Oliver. No attorney has entered an appearance on behalf of MGB Inc.
The case is Oliver v. MGB, Inc., E.D. Va., No. 3:18-cv-00096, complaint filed 2/10/18.
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