By CARA LOMBARDO
MADISON, Wis. (AP) — A former exotic dancer at a Wisconsin Dells strip club says the club pays its dancers essentially nothing.
Teriana Jones, who worked as a stripper at Cruisin’ Chubbys Gentleman’s Club, filed a lawsuit in federal court last week alleging club management required dancers to share tips to such an extent that dancers weren’t paid minimum wage or overtime.
The lawsuit alleges that Cruisin’ Chubbys, which bills itself as the largest adult entertainment center in the Midwest, violated labor laws. All current dancers and dancers employed by the club in the past three years are a part of the class action lawsuit alleging the club violated state law and can opt to join the collective action lawsuit alleging federal law violations.
Jones’ lawyer, Justin Peterson of Moen Sheehan Meyer, called the club’s pay structure, common among strip clubs, a “sham.” According to Peterson, the club requires the dancers to share tips with management before they get paid, Peterson said. If dancers do not earn enough tips to meet the “tip-out” fee established each night, they do not receive pay for private dances and cannot work again until they are able to pay, he said.
“The dancers could essentially owe the club money for working there at the end of the night,” Peterson said. “The employer doesn’t pay them anything. They get what they can from their tips.”
According to the complaint, Cruisin’ Chubbys dancers earn money by soliciting tips from customers while dancing on stage and by collecting fees for private dances, which range in cost from $20 for a topless lap dance to $300 for a “VIP” dance. The complaint also says that management requires dancers to participate in nude events and mingle with campers on the Edge-O-Dells adult campground, which the club is situated on, additional time for which they are not paid minimum wage or overtime.
Peterson said management determines the tip-out fee, the set dollar amount each night which can change from day to day that dancers must pay to collect fees earned.
“As a result of this pay structure, Dancers often effectively receive no pay for the hours they worked,” the complaint states. Jones requests that the court require management to pay dancers their unpaid hourly wages, overtime pay and damages in the amount of wages or tips unlawfully deducted or withheld, and cover their legal fees.
Jones did not immediately respond to an email message. Management at Cruisin’ Chubbys and Edge-O-Dells, which is also named as a defendant in the suit, didn’t immediately return messages. Online court records did not list any attorneys for the list of defendants, which also includes Timothy Roberts, his son, Kenneth Roberts, and Lantz Ray Roberts.
A man named Dave who, according to Cruisin’ Chubby’s website, oversees private party bookings said he had not heard anything about the suit when reached by phone Monday afternoon.
Peterson said he didn’t yet know how many dancers could be involved in the lawsuit, but that he had heard similar accounts from multiple dancers. He said courts have ordered numerous strip clubs to pay dancers back wages in similar suits over the past few years.
In 2015, Rick’s Cabaret in New York settled a class action suit for $15 million. Like Cruisin’ Chubbys, Rick’s required its dancers to return some of their tips and asserted they were independent contractors rather than employees, and therefore not owed minimum wage.