A year after agreeing to dismiss part of a labor lawsuit
brought by some exotic dancers against a Chicago strip club, a federal judge
scuttled the entire putative class action.
In a memorandum opinion and order issued March 28 in
Chicago, District Judge Rebecca R. Pallmeyer granted summary judgment in favor of
Clinton Entertainment Management LLC, which operates The Pink Monkey, a South
Loop club. The decision could end the legal hopes of plaintiffs Michelle
Labriola and Anna Lapina,
dancers who alleged the establishment wrongly classified them as independent
contractors and shorted them pay in the process.
Labriola contended she worked eight to 10 hours a day for
the first two months of 2015 without wages; Lapina said she worked at least 54
hours a week in August 2015, also without wages. Further, they said Pink Monkey
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.
On March 22, 2016, Pallmeyer granted part of the club’s
motion to dismiss the complaint, saying the Fair Labor Standards Act didn’t “provide
a cause of action for plaintiffs seeking the return of additional tip money
from their employer or others,” but did allow a state law minimum wage claim
and Labriola’s overtime pay claim to survive.
But in the March 28, 2017, order, Pallmeyer granted further
summary judgment on behalf of the club, then dismissed remaining claims without
prejudice, and denied the dancers’ motion for class certification as moot.
In her analysis, Pallmeyer considered whether the women were
employees or independent contractors. Giving them presumption of employee
status for the purpose of weighing their claims, she then considered whether
dance fees constituted customer tips or compulsory service charges. Finding
them to be charges, she noted, the fees are to be counted against the club’s minimum
Pallmeyer also found Lapina did not provide sufficient
evidence for her assertion she worked an extra hour per day checking out at the
end of each shift and would not consider those activities as part of dancer’s
working hours. Likewise, she said the plaintiffs “cite repeatedly to testimony
that refers to unknown documents not in the record,” leading her to conclude
there is no genuine dispute on the federal minimum wage claims.
The state minimum wage law claim, she said, boils down to a
$2.50 shortfall for Labriola — 18 cents per hour over 14 hours — and a
$25.70 gap for Lapina, based on 75 cents per hour over 34.27 hours.
Pallmeyer said the unjust enrichment claims are rooted in
the allegation of the club retaining portions of the dancers’ tips, but said
those claims also fail on ground the women were paid via dance fees, which are
Labriola also claimed the club seized a $1,000 customer tip
on her final night of employment. With testimony supporting arguments for and
against this claim, Pallmeyer dismissed that claim without prejudice to state
If no other plaintiff presents evidence supporting the
overtime claim within 21 days of her filing, Pallmeyer said she would grant
summary judgment on that claim, and dismiss both the state minimum wage claim
and the $1,000 tip claim.
U.S. District Judge Amy J. St. Eve
in August dismissed a similar lawsuit three different dancers brought against
the same club, saying those dancers’ amended complaint failed to provide
factual detail to back up their claims. She’d dismissed the original complaint
in February 2016.
Labriola and Lapina were
represented by attorney John C. Ireland, of South Elgin.
Clinton Entertainment was
represented by The Gurland Law Firm, of Hinsdale.