A federal judge in New York has awarded more than 2,000 current and former exotic dancers more than $10 million in a class-action lawsuit that claimed Rick's Cabaret had cheated them out of wages and tips from 2005 to 2012. The ruling Friday was a partial summary judgment that does not end court action, CNN reported. The club vowed to appeal.
Court documents indicate Rick's Cabaret failed to pay dancers minimum wage, incorrectly classifying them as independent contractors. The club also kept $2 tips that were part of $24 Dancer's Dollar vouchers that should have gone to the performers, U.S. District Judge Paul Engelmayer concluded.
Rick's argued the dancers' salaries were offset by performance fees but Engelmayer said they were entitled to minimum wage in addition to their performance fees.
"We are very pleased with the court's well-reasoned and thorough decision, and are confident that we will prevail at trial and secure an even greater monetary judgment," dancers' attorney Anna P. Prakash said in a statement. "The court's decision reflects that exotic dancers are entitled to the same legal protections as other employees and is a resounding victory for a group whose voices are all too often ignored."
“The concept that the large sums of money earned by entertainers at Rick’s Cabaret New York -- for which they received IRS Form 1099s -- do not offset the claimed wage obligations is a fundamentally flawed concept and contrary to how this same money is treated by various government agencies,” Gary Fishman, a spokesman for RCI Entertainment, which owns Rick's, said in an email to the New York Post.
The suit was filed in 2009. It said the dancers had to turn over $60 per shift to the club, in effect paying for the privilege of dancing there, the New York Daily News reported. The dancers are seeking $19 million in damages from RCI Entertainment New York.