Quansa Thompson shook, shimmied and stripped for a living.
But Ms. Thompson and several of her exotic dancer compatriots say they weren't being paid the minimum wage because their employer at a Washington, D.C.-based club called The House considered them "independent contractors." The dancers, whose stage names include "Shiver," "Wild Cherry," "Chyna" and "Cherokee," sued.
Everyone's got to have a name. Ms. Thompson called herself "Love" on stage. The House, in turn, bills itself as an "exotic gentlemen's club." Suits & Sentences calls itself a salacious spectator "legal affairs blog."
On Friday, a federal judge agreed that Ms. Thompson and the four other dancers amounted to employees and thus would be covered by minimum wage provisions. It's a suit that sheds light on the working conditions endured by strippers.
Thompson said she was paid approximately $40 per ten-hour shift of exotic dancing, and that she regularly worked ten-hour shifts four nights a week. Half-hour on, half-hour off. She further said The House managers "took unexplained deductions from the... wages, including late fees, fines for calling in sick, and stage fees."
The House managers also imposed various rules on the dancers, including "no cussing, fighting, biting, scratching, or drugs," as well as a ban on "fondling yourself on the stage."
U.S. District Judge Beryl Hall, while acknowledging that nude dancing may occasionally rised to "a level of high art, requiring extensive skill, training, and expertise," in most cases it does not. This undercuts one of the criteria set for independent contractors. Judge Hall further drew from a deposition transcript to underscore what the strip club's managers look for in a performer.
Hint: It's not technical skill.
Q: "What makes her qualified or not?"
Now, Judge Hall says, the next step is to figure out what Ms. Thompson and the other ladies are owed.