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Report: Strippers Don't Like Employee Classification

Thursday, January 3, 2019 | 3756 | 1 | 40 min read

The San Francisco Examiner reports that strippers are not happy, and being classified as employees — as appears to be required under a 2018 decision from the California Supreme Court — could be part of the problem.

The high court in April issued the Dynamex decision, creating a three-part test to determine whether a worker is an employee or a contractor. Under one prong, a person hired to perform a job that falls within the usual scope of a company’s business is an employee. A lawyer talking to the Examiner said it would appear that stripping is the customer business of strip clubs, and thus strippers would be employees.

The Examiner reports that a “wave of panic” swept through the Penthouse Club in San Francisco's North Beach district when strippers received their first employee paychecks in November. Not a single dancer made more than $300 for two weeks of work, according to a dancer calling herself Darla.

The club said it pays dancers minimum wage, which is $15 an hour in San Francisco. The report doesn’t mention how many hours or shifts the dancers worked but said some reported full-time work “isn’t practical,” and working three days a week is “physically exhausting.”

Darla said being classified as an employee destroys the primary benefit of stripping, which was essentially untraceable income.

“The whole point about being a stripper is you go in, get fast cash, no one knows how you’re getting it, it’s not documented and it’s not taken from you,” Darla said.

Another dancer said clubs have changed how they pay commissions for private dances. Whether this is in response to Dynamex isn’t made clear.

The Examiner reports another stripper, using the name Mary, said dancers historically kept 75% of their private dance sales. On a typical night, a dancer would sell $1,000 in dances and walk out the door with $750.

But at the Gold Club, dancers now get no commission for the first $150 in dances sold, 40% for the next $250 and 60% for anything beyond that. The Examiner didn’t do the math, but the same $1,000 in dance sales would net $460 under the model.

“When I make a customer pay $400 and I see $60 of it, it isn’t computing for me,” Mary said. “We want to do our job, and previously our business was to sell dances. And we still need to make living. But at the same time, where is the incentive?”

Once again, the Examiner didn’t do the math. Under the commission structure the Examiner described, a dancer should earn a $100 in commission on a $400 private dance. After discounting the $150 on which no commission is earned, dancers would get 40% of $250, or $100.

Dancers said being classified as employees prevents them from having any say in which customers they serve, a freedom they enjoyed as independent contractors.

The Dynamex decision applies only to wage order disputes, but Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher, D-San Diego, introduced AB 5 in December, proposing to expand the ruling to also govern questions of employment in workers’ compensation claims.

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