Judge: Pin Ups strippers are employees, not independent contractors

The services exotic dancers provide are so essential to one DeKalb County strip club, a federal judge this week ruled that management must classify them as employees rather than independent contractors.

Current and former strippers at Pin Ups Nightclub said in an October 2013 lawsuit that they were compensated exclusively through tips because management classified them as independent contractors, not as employees. They claimed they were entitled to minimum wage and overtime compensation under the Fair Labor Standards Act.

And U.S. District Judge Thomas W. Thrash Jr. agreed.

“It is clear,” he wrote in his 13-page ruling, “that the Plaintiffs were “employees” under the FLSA.”

Thrash based his decision on several factors.

Pin Ups, he said, “exercised a significant amount of control over” its entertainers.

All dancers received Pin Ups’ General Policies and Procedures, a manual of the club’s rules. It laid out standards for hours, attire, and how entertainers were to conduct themselves on the main stage and in VIP rooms. If dancers did not comply with those standards, they could be dismissed.

Pin Ups also required dancers to pay several fees: a house fee that was due when they arrived for their shifts, a DJ fee and a house mom fee. House moms made sure they complied with appearance standards.

Not only did Pin Ups maintain control over the dancers, Thrash concluded that the club’s survival depended on the dancers. Kelly Campbell, the general manager of Pin Ups, admitted as much, according to the ruling. Thrash pointed out the same manual Pin Ups issues to dancers includes lines such as this: “Your job as an entertainer is the most important one in our organization.”

“Pin Ups,” Thrash wrote, “is an adult entertainment club and so it needs adult entertainers.”

It is not clear if The Great American Dream Inc., the operator of Pin Ups, will appeal Thrash’s ruling. Officials could not be reached Friday for comment.

This isn't the first time metro Atlanta strippers have sought damages for violations of minimum wage and overtime requirements of the Fair Labor Standards Act. Chandra Cook filed a class-action lawsuit in October on behalf of 50 past and current strippers at Pleasers in southwest Atlanta.

And dancers at The Onyx filed a lawsuit in 2009 against operator Galardi South Enterprises Inc. In that case, which club owners settled in December 2012 with 73 current and former entertainers, U.S. District Judge Richard W. Story ruled that the dancers were employees.

The settlement awarded the Onyx dancers $1.55 million, or roughly $21,233 per dancer, according to court records.