Misclassification of Exotic Dancers as Independent Contractors. Big No-No.

Here’s a little known fact: a gentlemen’s club may not charge an exotic dancer fees to work at the club if the club is attempting to classify dancers at independent contractors. This practice violates the Fair Labor Standards Act.

Great article from the Houston Chronicle on this issue.

Dancer sues over labor violations at Dickinson gentlemen’s club

Gabrielle Banks, Staff writer

A woman who worked for more than a year at a Dickinson strip club sued over allegations the manager never paid her regular wages and skimmed off her tip money to pay the doorman and “house mother,” among others. Houston lawyer Jarrett L. Ellzey said there’s a pattern of this kind of payment scheme at strip clubs across the country.


After a year, a strip club worker had had enough of putting up with less.

Stacey Kibodeaux, 21, who goes by the stage name Illusion, sued a Dickinson club on behalf of herself and other exotic dancers at the Heartbreakers Gentlemen’s Club and its manager (named in court documents as Whitey Doe), claiming they weren’t paying the workers the minimum wage or covering overtime expenses mandated by federal law. Management also unlawfully skimmed money off her tips, she says.

Jarrett L. Ellzey, a labor and employment lawyer who represents the woman, said Kibodeaux’s is one of dozens of such cases around the country targeting what he called a pervasive practice of forcing strippers to pay to work, failing to pay them the mandatory minimum wage and fraudulently classifying dancers as independent contractors.

“You have these club owners who are 99 percent men taking advantage of vulnerable young females who desperately need to work and are unaware of their rights under federal law,” Ellzey said.

An employee who answered the phone at the Heartbreakers club said the manager was not immediately available for comment. She confirmed that he goes by Whitey but his real name is George Forster.

The club boasts online that it’s friendly to smokers and offers “incredibly comfortable seating in separate and distinct seating areas to suit your mood.” It’s “the perfect place to have your corporate, birthday or bachelor parties with over 23,000 sq. feet and the most beautiful entertainers that Texas has to offer.” Ladies are welcome, according to the homepage.

Kibodeaux worked multiple shifts each week at the club from November 2018 through December 2019, performing stage and table dances and entertaining customers in VIP rooms, all while nude or semi-nude. The case alleges that for the past three years all dancers at the club were classified as contractors and denied traditional wages.

The lawsuit filed Tuesday in Galveston federal court says the business fails to pay workers minimum wage or overtime as part of a scheme to classify her and other dancers at the club at 3200 Gulf Freeway as independent contractors. She says the club also forced her and her coworkers to pay illegal kickbacks that were billed as “house fees” for taking the stage.

The manager fined dancers for arriving late and set prices for VIP dances, according to court documents. If they didn’t come out of the locker room when the DJ called their stage name, their pay was docked. If they didn’t follow the rules, they would be “suspended, fined, fired, or otherwise disciplined,” the lawsuit says.