By night, exotic dancers Jewel and Barbie take off their clothes for money at Georgia Avenue NW strip club The House. But lately, stripping hasn’t paid that well—and they’re blaming their bosses.
Jewel and Barbie, whose real names are Akeisha Turner and Jenese Mitchell, respectively, have filed a class action lawsuit against The House. The suit alleges that management violated the Fair Labor Standards Act by treating dancers like contractors instead of employees. “It’s just a fundamentally unfair system,” says Gregg C. Greenberg, one of the dancers’ lawyers. Greenberg, who has sued D.C.-area strip clubs in the past, says he has seen the contractor set-up before. He estimates that 50 current and former strippers from The House could be eligible to join the suit.
The dancers are allegedly paid just $3 an hour, with the expectation that they will make up the rest in tips. But because the strippers also have to pay a DJ to spin while they perform, they often end up losing money dancing. Jewel and Barbie’s hourly wages have ranged from negative $10 an hour to negative $5.45 an hour, according to the suit.
Greenberg also complains that the strippers are only paid when they are on stage, but not when they’re doing other duties of the job, like talking to customers. “They are creating the atmosphere,” he says of the club. The House hasn’t responded yet to a request for comment.
This isn’t the first time The House has been in legal hot water over wages. In 2010, one of the club’s dancers, with help from Greenberg’s firm, sued for labor violations. Greenberg says that case ended in a settlement.