Dancers sue metro Atlanta strip clubs over wages

Exotic dancers have sued a pair of metro Atlanta strip clubs over the issue of fair wages.

The lawsuits, filed last month in federal court, accuse club owners at Magic City in downtown Atlanta and at The Follies in northeast Atlanta of denying minimum wage and overtime to dancers.

Keira Vaugh, Jacqueline Woodard and Sashe Omogiate are suing Magic City, and Tiara Payne is suing The Follies.

"Defendant misclassifies entertainers in part in order to avoid paying them a minimum wage as required by law," both lawsuits say, referring to a violation of the federal Fair Labor Standards Act.

"Indeed, Defendant does not pay entertainers any wages or other compensation for the work it suffers or permits them to perform. Defendant instead requires entertainers to pay the club as a precondition to working at the facility."

The owners of WBY Inc., the company that owns The Follies, were not immediately available for comment on Tuesday.

Officials at M-Entertainment Properties, the owners of Magic City, could not be reached Tuesday for comment.

Asked by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution to address the question of wages for exotic dancers, UGA law professor Ronald Carlson said "many of the cases under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) which deal with tips concern whether the tips a person receives will be treated as wages, and that often depends on the contract (written or oral) between performer and employer."

Magic City dancers are required to pay nightly "house fees," "bar fees" or "dance rental fees," among others, the complaint says.

Fees required to work at The Follies include a nightly house fee paid at the beginning of every shift, a tax to leave before the end of a shift and a fee for drink tickets that entertainers must sell to patrons, according to that complaint.

The lawsuit follows a trend that was sparked in 2009 when the owners of the Atlanta adult club The Onyx paid a $1.55 million settlement to 73 current and former dancers – roughly $21,233 each.

Last October, dancers from Pleasers in southwest Atlanta and Pin Ups in DeKalb County filed suit against their respective employers seeking minimum-wage relief.

And in January, entertainers sued the owners of Tattletale Lounge, claiming the club owners withheld fair wages and demanded kickbacks from dancers.

A federal judge reviewing the Pin Ups case ruled in January that entertainers were in fact employees rather than independent contractors, because the club could not survive without them.

Attorneys for Omogiate, Payne, Woodard and Vaugh anticipate seeking class action status for the complaints.

"As this case proceeds," both lawsuits read, "it is likely that other individuals will sign consent forms and join this action as opt-in plaintiffs."

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