Two exotic dancers from PT's strip clubs have filed a lawsuit accusing owners of cheating about 300 women out of their minimum wage and benefits -- and threatening to steal their table-dance tips if they complained about it.
Brandy Apple and Amanda Sheer, both Missouri residents, filed the class-action lawsuit last month demanding back pay and damages for the hundreds of strippers who've worked for VCG Holding Corp. -- which owns PT's Brooklyn, PT's Centreville, PT's Sports, the Penthouse Club and Roxy -- without a wage or benefits, some for more than ten years.
See also: 13 Reasons Your Exotic Dancer Hates You
According to the lawsuit, the strippers are paid "solely through the tips received from customers when they performed exotic table, chair, couch, lap, and/or VIP room dances."
Strippers don't get to keep all of their tips, the lawsuit says. Doormen, DJs, managers and other employees all get a cut, as determined by the owners, as well as an additional "tip-out," worth about $1 per song, at the end of the night.
Dancers who demanded minimum wage or benefits were penalized through termination, the confiscation of all table-dance tips and other retaliations, according to the lawsuit.
"Tips belong to the person they are given to," the lawsuit says. "Table-dance tips were given by patrons directly to dancers...and therefore, belong to dancers."
Think you could hack it as a stripper? Continue reading to read the long list of rules Brandy Apple and Amanda Sheer say they had to follow at PT's.
The club gets away with paying strippers in tips instead of a wage by classifying the women as "independent contractors," but the lawsuit says the women have none of the power a contractor would have, such as influence over the program, atmosphere, marketing or business model of the clubs:
[Club owners] set the hours of operation; length of shifts dancers must work; the show times during which a dancer may perform; minimum table dance tips; determine the sequence in which a dancer may perform on stage during her stage rotation; the format and themes of dancer's performances (including their costuming and appearances); theme nights; conduct while at work (i.e., that they be on the floor as much as possible when not on stage and mingle with patrons in a manner which supports [the club's] general business plan; pay tip splits; pay "tip-outs" to managers, doormen and other employees who do not normally receive tips from patrons; and all other terms and conditions of employment.
The club could possibly claim that the dancers are "artists" and therefore are exempt from laws about minimum wage, but the lawsuit makes it quite clear that there's nothing artistic about a stripper's job:
"The exotic dancing performed by [the dancers] while working at the nightclubs does not require invention, imagination or talent in a recognized field of artistic endeavor," the lawsuit says. "Prior dance experience is not required to perform at the nightclubs. Dancers are not required to attain a certain level of skill in order to work at the nightclubs. There are no dance seminars, no specialized training, no instruction booklets, and no choreography provided or required in order to work at any of the nightclubs."
"The scope of the dancer's initiative is restricted to decisions involving what clothes to wear (within [the club's] guidelines) or how provocatively to dance," the lawsuit says. When strippers are late, absent or leave early, they are fined or given another penalty, according to the suit. They're also required to sell a minimum number of drink tickets per shift.
Between 20 and 40 women work at one of PT's clubs on a given day, according to the suit.
VGC Holding Corp. is based in Colorado and owns clubs in Indiana, Illinois, Colorado, Texas, North Carolina, Minnesota, Kentucky, Maine, Florida, and California.
Continue reading to see the lawsuit.@StLouisLindsay. E-mail the author at Lindsay.Toler@RiverfrontTimes.com.