In our continuing coverage of exotic dancer performances on the class action stage, another group of dancers from California recently won approval of a multi-million dollar settlement in a wage and hour class action suit.
A California federal district court judge approved a nearly $13 million settlement for a class of dancers who had worked at clubs owned or operated by Spearmint Rhino Companies Worldwide, Inc., and other defendants in. The dancers, from California and five other states, had alleged in a suit filed in 2009 that the defendants had misclassified them as independent contractors, depriving them of minimum wage compensation and other benefits under state laws and the Fair Labor Standards Act.
The settlement also requires the defendants to stop treating the dancers as independent contractors or lessees and start treating them as employees or owners. In California, the defendants will be prohibited from charging “stage fees,” which the dancers had been paying for the privilege of performing at the adult entertainment venues.
The judge’s approval came more than one year after the parties had reached an agreement and sought preliminary approval from the court. The court had denied the dancers’ previous attempts at court ratification because of the judge’s concerns about the typicality and adequacy of class representatives for a number of subclasses, the agreement’s attempt to release FLSA claims of class members not opting in to the collective action, and the agreement’s failure to identify the charitable organizations as recipients for the settlement fund’s non-reversionary awards.
Each dancer who makes a claim is expected to recover an award in the range of $1,000 to $10,000. The court approved an award of $2.3 million for the plaintiffs’ counsel … which should serve as an incentive to those dancers who took the jobs to put themselves through law school.
The Bottom Line: Employers who misclassify exotic dancers (or other workers) as independent contractors to save money may end up losing their own shirts.