Former Blush dancer sues strip club over low pay
By Brian Bowling
Published: Monday, Nov. 11, 2013, 11:51 a.m.
Dancers who wear very little at the Downtown strip club Blush also sometimes earn very little, a former dancer claims in a federal lawsuit.
“Indeed, after paying all fees, fines and tip-outs, plaintiff has on several occasions taken home compensation of $30 or less for an eight-or-more-hour shift,” the lawsuit by Katisha Correll says.
Correll, whose age and address were unavailable, claims that Blush classifies dancers as independent contractors and doesn't pay them.
Instead, they work for tips, and the club takes a share of their tips in the form of “house fees” and other payments. The dancers are also required to “tip” other employees and pay $30 to $40 fines for showing up late to work, according to the lawsuit filed on Friday.
Albert Bortz, owner of One Three Five Inc., which does business as Blush, couldn't be reached for comment. Staff at the club referred questions to attorney Jonathan Kamin, who couldn't be reached.
The dancers owe minimum fees regardless of how much they make, the lawsuit says.
“The thought of it sounds like it's clever, but it's not legal,” said Gary Lynch, one of the attorneys representing Correll.
Lynch said dancers have won similar lawsuits in other parts of the country.
“This seems to be the way they operate,” he said of the clubs.
A New York federal judge in September ruled in favor of more than 1,900 current and former dancers who sued Rick's Cabaret in New York City for classifying them as independent contractors and not paying them minimum wage.
In November 2012, about 16,500 current and former dancers reached a $13 million settlement with the owners of 16 clubs in California, Nevada, Florida, Texas, Idaho and Kentucky.
Sam Cordes, a prominent labor law attorney in Pittsburgh, said such cases usually hinge on how closely the employer manages the person doing the work.
“The right to control is usually the most paramount issue in whether someone is an independent contractor or an employee,” he said.
If the worker has the discretion on how and when to do the work, then the scale tips toward the worker being an independent contractor, he said. If not, the scale tips toward the worker being an employee.
The lawsuit says Blush dictates most aspects of the dancers' work, including which shifts they work, what clothes they wear, which songs they dance to and in what order they dance.
The club also requires dancers to accept “Blu Money” from customers, the lawsuit says. The customers pay $110 for 100 “Blu” dollars, but the club only pays the dancers $90 when they cash them back in, the lawsuit says.
Cordes said those allegations, if true, give Correll a strong case. Fining workers for showing up late and taking part of their tips when they aren't paid minimum wage are clear violations, he said.
“That money belongs to the employees,” he said.
Correll is suing on behalf of herself and all current and former dancers for the club. The lawsuit seeks recovery of the minimum wages and overtime owed the dancers, as well as damages.
The lawsuit says there are more than 100 potential members of that class, and their claims against the club will exceed $5 million.
Brian Bowling is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-325-4301 or email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Kovacevic: Panic over Pirates? In April? Why?
- Patience pays off as starting pitcher Volquez gets 1st win for Pirates
- Undersized rookie Gibbons is blur on ice for Penguins
- Plum native Umberger inching closer to making return for Blue Jackets
- Panthers pulling weight for new strength coach
- 4 dead in ‘horrific’ Armstrong County crash
- Pens insider: Penalty killing a concern in Stanley Cup playoffs
- Work on tournament-class dek hockey rink in Bloomfield to begin
- Pirates should exploit free-swinging Brewers
- Body found on train tracks in West End
- PSU has hand in discovery of most Earth-like planet yet