RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Dozens of exotic dancers in Richmond are taking an adult club owner to court, claiming they weren't paid their rightful hourly wage, among other unfair practices.
The dancers filed a class-action lawsuit against owner Billy Pyliaris, who owns five adult clubs in Richmond: Paper Moon, Club Rouge, Daddy Rabbits, Candy Bar and Pure Pleasure.
Exotic dancers are often considered "independent contractors" by club owners, as opposed to "employees," so they are not legally owed a minimum wage. However, dancer Hannah Cramer and other performers in the case say they should be considered technical employees of the club, and therefore are owed an hourly minimum wage, in addition to tips.
According to the federal court documents, there could be as many as 100 plaintiffs in the civil case.
NBC12 legal analyst Steve Benjamin says there are legal parameters in defining an "employee," as opposed to an "independent contractor."
"If an employer can direct when you come to work, how you do your work, the manner in how you perform your work, then the traditional test would say that that person…is an employee," explained Benjamin. "If you're an employee, state and federal law requires that you be paid a minimum wage, you be paid overtime, you be permitted to keep tips…and that you not be required to pay an extra fee for the privilege of working for that employer."
The dancers also say they were forced to give tips back to the house for "stage fees" and other unfair charges.
The suit also claims that Pyliaris purposefully didn't take proper bookkeeping and time sheet records to evade payroll records. NBC12 reached out to owner Pyliaris, and a former business partner, Mike Dickinson, responded on his behalf.
Dickinson says that the dancers are asking for a full, minimum wage hourly pay (more than $7 an hour), when restaurant servers, bartenders and others in the service industry make just over $2 an hour, by federal law. The federal law allows for a lower minimum wage for servers, etc., since the majority of their money is made from tips. Dickinson also points to salon owners who charge stylists a "chair fee" to use the salon, as similar to club owners charging a stage fee or taking a cut of a lap dance fee, from dancers. He says club owners have to pay for the facility and security, and largely make money off cover fees and alcohol.
Attorneys for the dancers cite similar lawsuits that have ruled in favor of the dancers being recognized as employees. If the dancers win the lawsuit, the judge will determine a figure, in the amount of money they are owed.
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