Lingerie Model Sues Delilah’s Den, Claims Tips Skimmed and Pay Withheld

Carlee Costello says she was forced to give managers 20 percent of her Champagne Room tips, clean the club "from floor to ceiling" for free and buy her own food, and drinks at unpaid promotional events at the Capital Grille and Del Frisco's.

Carlee Costello via her Twitter profile photo

Carlee Costello via her Twitter profile photo

Delilah’s Den is best known as Philadelphia’s most “high-end” strip club, but according to one former employee, the establishment has been bilking the women who work there for years.

According to a potential class-action lawsuit recently filed in Philadelphia’s federal court (below), Carlee Costello, 32, who is a model, worked as a hostess and waitress at the Philadelphia location of Delilah’s Den from 2001 through this month and was paid minimum wage — $2.83 per hour — along with tips. But she alleges that Delilah’s didn’t pay her and other employees for all of their time worked and that management skimmed some of those tips.

Costello maintains that employees are routinely not paid for attending promotional events (she says Delilah’s employees had to buy their own food and drinks at some of these events, which took place at pricey establishments like Del Frisco’s and Capital Grille), mandatory cleaning days, and time spent “donning or doffing” their employer-required corsets (she says a manager once told her that Delilah’s was “not paying you to change your clothes”).

She also says that the women had to pay for their mandated outfits (corsets) and that they could only purchase them from certain retailers. Costello adds that if an employee forgot to clock out at the end of a shift — usually after 2 a.m. — it was club policy to clock them out at midnight.

Additionally, Costello alleges that Delilah’s forced the employees to use their tip money to cover unpaid tabs left by customers who walked out and says that she once had to cover a $300 tab left by a customer while a hostess was required to cover an approximately $900 bill left by a walkout. Tips were also used to cover the cost of broken glasses, according to the suit.

Costello claims that Delilah’s management violated the federal Fair Labor Standards Act by including members of management in the employee tip pool. She says that when she worked as a hostess in the Champagne Room — she claims that “private dances” in that room last for more than an hour — she was required to pay the managers on duty 20 percent of her tips and that when she was waitressing in the main club, she had to give managers 10 percent.

She also outlines a program known as Delilah’s Dollars. According to Costello, Delilah’s Dollars is an internal currency that customers can use to purchase dances or leave tips: Guy buys Delilah’s Dollars from club management and then gives them to the women in exchange for their attention. But, says Costello, management charges employees a 15 percent fee to cash those Delilah’s Dollars in, meaning a $100 tip left in Delilah’s Dollars turns into an $85 tip in cold hard cash.

The lawsuit names all of the local Delilah’s locations as well as a purported owner and accuses the club of violating the FLSA, the Pennsylvania Minimum Wage Act, the Pennsylvania Wage Payment Collection Law, and Pennsylvania’s Common Law prohibiting unjust enrichment. Costello is asking the court to award the employees any unpaid wages and “skimmed” tips in addition to additional unspecified damages.

A similar suit was filed in February, and that case has been stayed by the court and is awaiting arbitration.

Neither Delilah’s Den nor Costello responded to requests for comment.

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Carlee Costello’s Suit Against Delilah’s: