Magistrate Recommends $1.1M Compensation for Dancers in Employment Lawsuit

A recent development in Maryland involves a magistrate judge’s recommendation that a nightclub pay $1.1 million to a group of dancers who filed a lawsuit for unpaid wages. The dancers claimed they were intentionally misclassified as independent contractors to avoid proper payment.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Brendan A. Hurson found Norma Jean’s Club, operating as PP&G Inc., liable for unpaid wages under the Fair Labor Standards Act. The ruling determined that three individuals were misclassified, receiving no wages, and two others did not receive the mandated minimum wage. The complaint alleged that the club utilized a system of fees and fines to withhold the dancers’ pay. Prior to each shift, the dancers were required to pay a house fee, effectively reducing their potential earnings. Moreover, at the end of their shifts, a portion of their hard-earned tips was mandated to be shared with the DJ, house mom, and valet.

Additionally, the complaint stated that the club would arbitrarily impose fines as a means of wage reduction, penalizing dancers for alleged violations of club rules. These fines were not transparent or clearly defined, leaving dancers vulnerable to unwarranted deductions from their earnings. Repeated warnings for perceived infractions could ultimately lead to the suspension or termination of the dancers’ employment.

Judge Hurson agreed with the dancers’ assertion that they were required to make payments, including fees and tip sharing, to work at the club. The magistrate’s decision was based on the dancers’ claim and the club’s failure to provide evidence to the contrary. The judge states that the club owes the dancers a significant sum of $1.1 million under the Fair Labor Standards Act. While the judge declined to triple the damages sought, this decision underscores the importance of fair compensation for employees and highlights the club’s obligation to rectify the unpaid wages issue.

The dancers initiated the lawsuit as a class and collective action in October 2020, challenging the club’s treatment of them as independent contractors while imposing rules and procedures. The complaint highlighted the denial of hourly wages, financial deductions, and punitive actions for rule violations, raising concerns about the club’s compliance with fair labor standards. By bringing forward this claim, the dancers aimed to shed light on the contradictory nature of their employment situation, where they were subject to the club’s rules and regulations despite being classified as independent contractors.

The attorneys  representing the dancers, noted that the magistrate’s recommendation aligned with a trend recognizing exotic dancers as employees. The plaintiffs’ lawyers  emphasized that employees should not be required to pay their employer for the opportunity to work, challenging the industry-wide practice of treating dancers as independent contractors. This ruling signifies a significant step towards fair treatment and proper recognition of the dancers’ employment status within the  club industry.

If you find yourself in a situation where you suspect misclassification or unpaid wages, it is crucial to take action and protect your rights. Our team of dedicated attorneys at Fitapelli & Schaffer specializes in employment law and has extensive experience in handling cases related to misclassification and unpaid wages. We are committed to advocating for workers’ rights and ensuring fair compensation for our clients. If you believe you have been a victim of such practices, don’t hesitate to contact us for a confidential consultation. Let us help you navigate the complexities of employment law and fight for the justice and compensation you deserve. Reach out to Fitapelli & Schaffer today to take the first step towards resolving your situation.