Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Former Baby Dolls dancer files federal suit, claiming gentleman's club ... - Dallas Morning News (blog)

Baby Doll Manager Chris Loeffler interviewing women for the position of entertainer at the Jobless to Topless job fair at Cabaret Royale in April 2009 (Lara Solt/Staff photographer)

Suits like the one filed in Dallas federal court moments ago by former Baby Dolls dancer Esther Eliazo aren’t uncommon these days. The Google Machine is filled with similar tales of topless dancers suing their employers over compensation, among them one filed here last October by three women who took their pole positions at Jaguars Gold Club and said they weren’t getting their fair share of tips for taking off their tops. That’s the exact same claim Eliazo makes in her case, which she hopes to turn into a class action.

Says the suit, brought by Houston personal-injury attorney Galvin Kennedy, Baby Dolls and parent company Burch Management expect their dancers to work more than 40 hours a week, but they don’t compensate them “at the applicable minimum wage and overtime rate” â€" which, says the suit, is a violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act. That’s been the basis for almost all of the topless-bar suits filed in recent years, some of which have been settled and at least one of which ended in victory for the plaintiffs.

The lawsuit spells it out: Eliazo worked at Baby Dolls from October 2010 through January of this year, and she, like all the dancers, was paid solely through tips. Except, of course, she doesn’t just get to keep the customers’ cash; she may have earned it, but she also has to split it â€" with the DJs, the managers and anyone else due the so-called “house fee.” Says the suit:

Defendants encourage their customers to tip the dancers using house certificates rather than cash. These certificates, which are redeemable at any of the Baby Dolls locations, are referred to as “BabyDolls Bucks.” Under this system, customers purchase certificates from the club. Customers then redeem the certificates for dances. When the dancers turn in the certificates to the clubs for cash, Defendants do not return the full value to them. Instead, Defendants retain a portion of the tips. This resulted in Defendants taking a portion of the tips that should have been paid to the dancer.

This suit, like its predecessors, wants the court to determine: Are the dancers employees or merely independent contractors exempt from the protections of federal labor law? Messages have been left at Burch Management HQ; I’ll update if and when there’s a call back. Till then, the suit’s below.

Baby Dolls Lawsuit

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