Judge: Strippers at Rick’s NY are Employees, Not Contractors

NEW YORK—A New York Federal judge has found that strippers who have worked at Rick’s Cabaret in New York City are employees and not independent contractors, and as such are entitled to receive minimum wage. The case was brought three years ago, when “50 women filed a $5 million lawsuit against the club, both for not paying them minimum wage, for unlawfully taking some of their tips, and for charging them various illegal fines and penalties. In ruling in their favor, U.S. District Judge Paul Engelmayer wrote in part that the Rick's house rules ‘regulated almost every aspect of the dancers' behavior within the Club," making it clear they were employees,” reported the Village Voice.

The ruling will have no impact on other Rick’s clubs, however. As Rick’s CEO Rick Langham told the New York Times, “We changed our independent contractor practices some time ago."

Rick’s is still not pleased, though. In an announcement issued yesterday, corporate attorney Jeffrey A. Kimmel of the firm of Meister Seelig & Fein LLP said: "We disagree with the decision and intend to appeal. Additionally there are significant remaining issues that were not addressed on these motions, including whether the substantial amounts earned by the plaintiffs can be deemed wages under New York State Law and therefore be applied against any claimed minimum wage obligations. Based on recent developments in the law we also intend to move the court to decertify the class and we are optimistic that the class will be decertified."

The Voice also reported that some strippers think the ruling will make things worse, not better.  "As discussed in other threads, 'employee' status / treatment results in more tax revenues being collected from the clubs and dancers, as well as more state unemployment and disability insurance fund revenues being collected from the clubs," one dancer wrote. "Also, the press coverage once again widely publicizes the fact that some dancers are earning $1,000+ per night ... a point which won't be overlooked by the NY state and city tax agencies!"

The ruling can be read here.