Strippers are employees of the club they work at, not independent contractors, says the Kansas Supreme Court. This important distinction means strippers are eligible for unemployment.
The ruling upheld a previous decision by Shawnee County District Court, reports The Associated Press. The matter was brought to court following an unemployment claim made by a stripper at Club Orleans, a "gentleman’s club" in Topeka, in 2005. Club Orleans’ owners, Milano’s Inc., argued that exotic dancers were independent contracts and were, therefore, not entitled to unemployment benefits, notes AP.
The dancers are not given an hourly wages by the club, but are paid solely by tips. On the other hand, the club’s control over a dancer’s schedule and commitment extends beyond independent contractor status, according to the court’s decision.
If the exotic dancer is laid off by the club, she is entitled to state unemployment and the club has to chip in to the state fund that supports the benefits, notes The Kansas City Star. The Kansas Department of Labor argued, “Club Orleans’ main attraction is semi-nude female dancers. The dancers are integral to the club’s financial success because, without the dancers, nothing distinguishes Club Orleans from any other food and drink establishment.”
Because the club is so reliant on the dancers to make money, it would not exist without the performers, who are also featured in advertising and on billboards.
The court ruled that the tips counted as a wage earned at the club. According to the court documents, the labor auditor who initially investigated the unemployment claim gave four reasons why exotic dancers should be treated as employees and not contractors. The club has clearly defined rules for behavior, and any violation of house rules would lead to the termination of the dancer. Club Orleans created and enforced a policy of minimum tips for different dances, meaning the dancer was not in control of how much money they could make.
According to Michael Merriam, Milano’s Inc. lawyer, the court relied too heavily on the house rules argument. Merriam claimed the rules were in place for legal reasons and were requested by the dancers, reports ABC News. The Kansas Department of Labor did not comment on the decision.