Ex-Stripper: Delilah’s Paid Dancers Less Than Minimum Wage
Melody Schofield began dancing at Delilah’s Den in 2007. While dancing there, she says she had to purchase particular outfits to wear on certain days: Lingerie on Wednesdays, black and gold for the Entertainer of the Year contest, red and green at Christmas. She also says she had to pay a house fee of $30 to $85 for the opportunity to dance on stage, and that she had to tip the DJ, the house mom and the makeup artists. If she didn’t work at certain special events — such as the Wing Bowl After Party — she claims, she would be fined up to $250.
All of these allegations were made by Schofield, who went by Coco at the club, in a class-action lawsuit filed against the Spring Garden Street strip club last month. It was first reported by the Inquirer this morning. Schofield is the lead plaintiff in a potential class-action lawsuit her lawyer says could have hundreds of potential claimants. The suit is seeking a class of all dancers who have worked at Delilah’s in the last three years and receive some of their income in tips.
A spokesman for Delilah’s told the Inquirer the “stage lease fee” is a strip club industry standard but declined to comment on the suit. Schofield left the club in November 2014.
Delilah’s, like most strip clubs, treats its workers as “independent contractors” — a definition that allows the clubs to avoid paying benefits and leaves the dancers unavailable to get workers’ compensation if they’re injured on the job. Lots of companies, from Comcast to WWE, do this for many workers, though the strip club industry is different because its workers are paid directly by customers. But the lawsuit says the workers were treated more like employees than contractors — the outfit requirements, for example.
The lawsuit alleges Delilah’s dancers are not allowed to retain all of the tips they earn and that the club is paying some of its dancers lower than the federal minimum wage of $7.25. Schofield told the Inquirer that on slow nights she would be making less than minimum wage after the mandatory tips to other workers at the club. The suit also alleges Delilah’s withheld overtime wages, forced dancers to pay the house fee and buy mandatory uniforms, as well as participate in a mandatory tip pool. The suit says Delilah’s violated the Fair Labor Standards Act, the Pennsylvania Minimum Wage Act and the Pennsylvania Wage Payment and Collection Law. The lawsuit says Schofield was “not compensated by Delilah’s, whatsoever, during her employment.”
One part of the suit concerns Delilah’s Dollars, perhaps the most confusing form of currency known to man:
Plaintiff and other dancers were required to participate in the “Delilah’s Dollars” program. Through this program, patrons can purchase Delilah’s Dollars from the club to be used for tips or payment for services like lap dances. Delilah’s charges the patron a twenty percent (20%) surcharge for the purchase of Delilah’s Dollars. In other words, one Delilah Dollar costs one dollar and twenty cents ($1.20). The club also retains twenty percent (20%) for each Delilah’s Dollar used to tip or pay a dancer, leaving the dancer with just eighty percent (80%) of the tip or payment. Since Delilah Dollars are sold as a cash alternative, the program misleads the patron into thinking that the dancer is receiving one-hundred [percent] (100%) of the tip. Moreover, the patron is unaware that the club is retaining a portion of the payment or tip.
Last year — while trying to avoid a proposed lap dance tax — Delilah’s said dancers kept the entire Delilah’s Dollar value during “personal entertainment” dances (such as champagne dances, where the patron is separately charged for a bottle of champagne).
The lawsuit is part of a nationwide push from dancers looking to get back wages from strip clubs. Dancers at Rick’s Cabaret in New York City won the right to a minimum wage in 2013 — though some told The Village Voice it would only make things worse. Dancers at Rick’s were awarded $10 million in back pay last November. Rick’s is a publicly traded company that operates multiple strip clips and is headquartered in Houston.
The Rick’s victory has led to more lawsuits. Just this week, dancers in San Antonio filed suit. Another recent lawsuit was filed by two dancers for Portland’s vegan strip club. Larry Flynt’s Hustler Club, in Manhattan, is also facing a lawsuit. One law firm is even advertising itself to potential defendants in strip club wage dispute cases.
A copy of the lawsuit against Delilah’s is below.
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