Two exotic dancers will be allowed to move forward with at least a portion of their lawsuit against a Chicago strip club where they worked, alleging the establishment wrongly classified them as independent contractors, and shorted them pay in the process.
U.S. District Judge Rebecca R. Pallmeyer ruled March 22 to grant only part of the dismissal requested by The Pink Monkey, a club operated by Clinton Entertainment at 750 S. Clinton St. in the South Loop. The ruling will allow dancers Michelle Labriola and Anna Lapina to continue a portion of their complaint.
Labriola contended she worked eight to ten hours a day for the first two months of 2015; Lapina said she worked at least 54 hours a week in August 2015 — all without wages. Further, they said Pink Money management charged them for things like “house fees,” “late fees,” “exchange fees” and “credit card service fees,” all collected from the women’s tips without their consent. They asked the court to award them unpaid back wages and overtime, as well as “wages equal to the amount they were required to give (the club) and other employees” under the “fees” policy.
Though Labriola initially filed May 11, 2015, Pallmeyer’s opinion is on the women’s amended complaint, which formally alleged violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act and Illinois Minimum Wage Law. The club moved to dismiss on grounds the dancers did not plausibly argue they were Pink Monkey employees, and that even if they were, their claim of insufficient pay lacks standing. The club also argued the women “voluntarily agreed to use their alleged tip money to pay fees to” the club, and that “the FLSA does not allow for the recovery of improperly shared tips.”
Pallmeyer noted the club’s motion to dismiss included significant attacks on “factual allegations from the original complaint that do not appear in (the) amended complaint.” She said the dancers’ minimum wage claims met basic pleading standards established in previous cases, while acknowledging another Chicago federal judge recently dismissed, without prejudice, a minimum wage claim other exotic dancers brought against the same defendants — Hughes v. Scarlett’s G.P. — in which those other plaintiffs made “no allegations as to their actual earnings or the hours worked for which they seek unpaid minimum wages.”
Whereas the club argued tips the dancers earned offset its FLSA wage obligations, Pallmeyer wrote that argument amounted to a defense strategy and was not grounds for dismissal. However, she sided with the club in its argument the FLSA “does not provide a cause of action for plaintiffs seeking the return of additional tip money from their employer or others.” She dismissed this claim without prejudice, including Lapina’s FLSA challenge regarding the club’s “alleged seizure of a $1,000 tip that Lapina received on her last night of employment.”
Given that the Illinois Minimum Wage Law “parallels the FLSA, and the same analysis has generally been applied to both statutes,” Pallmeyer also agreed to dismiss the portions of the women’s “claim based on allegedly confiscated tips and Labriola’s claim based on overtime pay,” but the state law minimum wage claim and Labriola’s overtime pay claim survived.
Pallmeyer also set aside the dancers’ motions for class certification, without prejudice. But the judge said any renewed motion for class certification would have to address the impact of the Hughes on the dancers’ claims.
The dancers are represented by attorney John C. Ireland, of South Elgin.
Clinton Entertainment was represented by The Gurland Law Firm, of Hinsdale.