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    Strip Clubs, Beware: Colorado Dancers Sue Claiming Exploitation

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    Owners of exotic dance clubs are using an obscure legal and accounting distinction to oppress wage earning potential in a way that is “gender specific,” Colorado-based attorney Mari Newman tells Sputnik.

    On Tuesday, a class action lawsuit was filed against Shotgun Willie’s, an adult entertainment club in Denver, for exploiting female dancers. The company has made a routine practice out of “illegally misclassifying workers as contractors.”

    But it’s not up to the employer to decide whether or not employees can be treated as contractors — 1099 workers — or W-2 employees. If someone is treated like an employee, as the workers have been, they ought to be compensated like employees, Newman said. 

    Exploitation is “absolutely” occurring in these types of arrangements, Newman said. 

    The plaintiffs seek damages from “unpaid back wages, overtime pay, fees, shared tips, and all other unlawful kickbacks,” the lawsuit states. Colorado exotic dancers are urged to contact Newman’s office, Killmer, Lane & Newman LLP,  since the damages can only be paid to individuals who opt-in to the case. In other words, just carrying out the functions of the job is not enough to keep one protected; individual’s who have experienced wage theft must positively affirm their case to be able to recover damages. 

    Shotgun Willie’s is not the only business that should be wary it may have to pay up for keeping women’s wages artificially suppressed. Newman filed a separate suit in March against VCG Holdings, which runs 15 clubs nationally. 

    In the case against Shotgun Willie’s, dancers are forced to pay up to $100 just to walk on stage and perform. Further, they must give a cut of proceeds from private dancess to other employees and managers. This has resulted in an “oppressive wage structure that is gender specific,” Newman added.

    1099 contractors cannot legally say they have a regular place of work, which makes it hard to do things like buy a house and fulfill other basic life tasks, the attorney said. What’s not up for debate in the case is the fact that adult entertainment performers are legal employees in Colorado — Newman recently won a case that proved as much. 

    The case against Shotgun Willie’s concerns “holding accountable companies that violate the law,” the lawyer told Sputnik. One issue that concerned Newman was how female dancers are often stigmatized as immoral or inferior by some of the same people who may patronize the establishments. “Whatever you think you think about the nature of the work, everyone deserves to get paid for their work,” Newman concluded.

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