Dallas Stripper Sues Baby Dolls, Claims Club Shorted Her on Wages and Overtime

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Forget about worker's comp if you slip in those heels.
Strip clubs are the brave new frontier in employment lawsuits. Women who were for years treated as "independent contractors" are filing suit in droves against their current or former employers. All of them want basically the same thing: the minimum wage and overtime money they feel they should have gotten while lap-dancing and pole-swinging for tips alone. Many also want compensation for years of unfair "house fees" and the tips they say they were forced to share with D.J.s, "house moms," valets, waitresses and sometimes even their bosses.

Esther Sue Eliazo is the latest dancer filing a Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) claim against her former employer, local topless joint Baby Dolls. In her suit, filed this morning in federal district court, the Tarrant County woman claims the saloon let her work over 40 hours a week without paying her minimum wage or overtime.

Her complaint also alleges that she wasn't fairly compensated for the house-issued "Baby Doll Bucks" (known in stripper parlance as "funny money") that the customers used to tip her. The lawsuit is set up as a class action; Eliazo is also part of a different class-action lawsuit against another locally-based strip club chain, Jaguars Gold Club.

We wrote earlier this year about the ongoing wave of FLSA stripper lawsuits. Galvin Kennedy, Eliazo's lawyer in the Baby Dolls suit, is also the attorney suing Jaguars in the other class action. Eliazo joined that one on December 16, 2011, court records show.

Class-action stripper suits tend to be successful, for one simple reason: most courts agree that dancers are employees, not independent contractors. Misclassification of employees is common in strip clubs for the same reasons it is in other industries: contractors are much cheaper to employ. Although the Department of Labor will respond to complaints about misclassification, they don't tend to focus much on strip clubs, focusing their scant resources on higher-risk fields like agriculture and construction.

In reporting the cover story, though, we also found that FLSA lawsuits aren't very popular among dancers who are currently working, especially women who work at higher-end places. Although many of them resent the house fees and the unfair compensation they say they receive for the funny money they turn in, most of them were skeptical that being classified as an employee would be much better. Many expressed concerns that it would only cut into their profits.

However, that sentiment can change once women leave the industry, or when they injure themselves at work and find themselves unable to apply for worker's comp. Kennedy says Eliazo still works as a dancer, although not at Jaguars or Baby Dolls. Court records show that she tried unsuccessfully to file for bankruptcy in June of this year, the fourth time she's filed such a claim since 2004.

Kennedy tells us they're expecting a ruling in the Jaguars case "any day." He's not optimistic that the lawsuits will prompt an industry-wide shift, though. Strip club owners, he says, "continuously come up with ways to re-categorize or re-classify what they're doing, but the end result is the same: the ladies get their tips and they don't get any compensation from the establishments. I would love to see this have a ripple effect and everybody change their practice to correct it, but that's their decision. My goal is just to get my clients the damages they're owed."

We have a call in to Steve Craft, president of Burch Management, which owns Baby Dolls. Craft is also personally named in the new lawsuit. We'll update accordingly.

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11 comments
LonelyDancer
LonelyDancer

She's such an idiot. She's so hungry for the here and now, she'll be broke in a year or when the IRS is after her for all her back taxes. Entertainers make their own schedules, come and go as they please, when they please, hence making them independent contractors. 

tony_larouche
tony_larouche

funny how those strippers are always bitching about money.. well they dont earn it to begin with. then they want more free money. why dont they pay taxes on those tips they take from customers. hell i bet a good majority dont even file tax returns. the IRS should go after all those money hungry criminal tramps, who serve no purpose but cause problems for male taxpayers.

veryhip4u
veryhip4u

'unsuccessfully to file for bankruptcy in June of this year, the fourth time she's filed such a claim since 2004' and now she wants free money from the club were she 'agreed to the terms" worked at! Democrats... they will never change!

RomoIsAHomo
RomoIsAHomo

I will put my funny money on the Strip Club lawyers vs. the "Hungry like a Castrated Wolf" Stripper Attorneys. That is how this system works, the girls make the big coin, they give percentages of their total tips to the support workers of their legal acts. Many of the high dollar girls make ten times what some of the losers who are bringing these cases. Now if some of these loser strippers go into those VIP booths and offer services not on the clubs menu, then wolla--Big Dolla--No Share--Dolla...Word spreads along with their legs and they make coin....

Myrna.Minkoff-Katz
Myrna.Minkoff-Katz topcommenter

They go in to these places and degrade themselves, then sue because they were degraded?

RyanJ99
RyanJ99

@tony_larouche you must have never had a conversation with a stripclub owner or manager because they are equally if not moreso bitching about money!  How do you know they dont pay taxes on the tips?  Are you an accountant that has dancers for clients? If so you are culpable as a party to tax fraud.  The male taxpayers that you speak of only have contact with dancers when they GO TO STRIPCLUBS they have every option not to go.  If the club owners werent so greedy and the club managers werent always trying to coerce girls into prostitution and drug use so they can sell more liquor and rooms, maybe theyd have a moral or legal leg to stand on.  As it stands, you can't tell an independent contractor when they can come into work, when they can leave work, schedule them to work certain days and call them mandatories, and still classify them as independent contractors.  You cant have your cake and eat it too but obviously thats exactly what theyve been doing and now they are being found guilty for misconduct and illegal business practices in courts of law across the country. I find it funny you side with the 50+ year old club owners who are constantly looking the other way while their minions engage in illegal activities against dancers who are as young as 18 years old.  Sounds like you are an owner or a GM pal, time to pay the reaper.

RyanJ99
RyanJ99

@veryhip4u and Repugnants wont stop until America is destabilized and in the hands of special interest groups and corporations.  Thanks for the comment! see you in 2016 when you will lose another election.

Sharon_Moreanus
Sharon_Moreanus topcommenter

@Myrna.Minkoff-Katz Guess you didn't read the story. It's over "fees", OT pay, and employee vs. contractor.

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