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Strippers Have Rights!

Being stripped of one’s rights is as un-American as it gets. We all think we are clothed in the Constitution, but alas, for some there is no protection from the evils of American corporate greed. In today’s column, strippers are complaining that they have lost their rights, and I sorta, kinda, agree with them.

Before going any farther, I can’t help but mention Motley Crue’s ode to stripping, called “Girls, Girls, Girls.” Alas, lyrics won’t be printed here.

There have been several federal cstrippersases of late in the Atlanta area wherein strippers argue that they are employees, not independent contractors. Having read the cases, I still am not sure that being an employee of a strip club is all that hot. But some strippers want to climb that pole and have hired attorneys to get it on stage.

Is being an employee a good idea? For instance, let’s say you decide to be a stripper. If it’s really minimum wage you are looking for, is stripping for you? $290 a week is a pretty low threshold and I’m not sure that I’d be interested in seeing your dance routine if that’s all you command. Yes, strippers would get that minimum wage but then they’d have to potentially share more of their tips (err, is there a better word for that?) and they’d have to work a fixed schedule. Maybe that doesn’t matter, but overtime ain’t all its cracked up to be.

One of the plaintiffs in the Cheeta case currently pending in federal court told a reporter she made $2000 a night, thanks to extra performances like table dances and VIP rooms. Now I’m assuming she’s a better dancer than average, but what do I know? Still, why would she want to be an employee? I don’t get it.

The clubs claim that the strippers are independent contractors because the stripper controls her hours (point for the club) and that she controls her dance performance (point for the club). The dancers counter that they have to give a portion of their fees to the club for the bouncers, “house mom” and DJ (point for the stripper). So the battle continues as clubs try to figure out how to avoid paying the strippers minimum wage and entitle them to benefits like workers compensation and unemployment insurance. The workers comp issue is no small thing, I’m guessing that dancers can suffer a variety of unique injuries.

The IRS says in its regs that “the general rule is that an individual is an independent contractor if the payer has the right to control or direct only the result of the work and not what will be done and how it will be done.” What exactly does that mean in the context of a strip club?

Further investigation will be required.

Kelly Burke, master attorney, former district attorney and magistrate judge, is engaged in private practice. He writes about the law, rock’n’roll and politics. These articles are not designed to give legal advice, but are designed to inform the public about how the law affects their daily lives. Contact Kelly at to comment on this article or suggest articles that you’d like to see and visit his website at to view prior columns.

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