CHICAGO – Female exotic dancers are suing a Bedford Park nightclub where they performed, alleging the Ocean’s Gentleman’s Club improperly classified them as independent contractors and illegally withheld wages and tips.
Club representatives named as co-defendants in the suit are Deborah Diaz and Seif El Sharif.
Plaintiffs Kenya Williams-Mix, Adrieana Powell, Shalayla Liddell and others asked for a jury trial in the suit, which was filed on Nov. 9 in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois in Chicago.
The plaintiffs allege violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), the Illinois Minimum Wage Law (IMWL) and the Illinois Wage Payment and Collection Act (IWPCA).
The plaintiffs allege they typically worked five to six nights a week and no less than 40 hours a week. The complaint states the performers were legally employees and not independent contractors because the defendants controlled them, dictating where to be on club property and when, what clothing to wear and requiring permission to leave.
In some cases, dancers were not permitted to leave the club premises and were “locked-in,” the complaint states.
“The dancers have no control over the customer volume, advertising or atmosphere at the club,” the complaint states.
“The plaintiffs were not independent contractors, rather were employees of the defendant by oral agreement and/or written contract," the suit states.
In addition, the plaintiffs allege the defendants had the power to hire or fire dancers at their discretion and could discipline them for not complying with requirements. The performers were also dependent on the defendants for a substantial portion of their earnings, the suit states.
“Without the dancers, the defendants would have no business, such that the dancers’ work is integral to the business,” the complaint noted.
The plaintiffs allege they were compelled to give up tip money for payments for house fees, late fees and credit card fees and the defendants intentionally shorted dancers on wages in violation of the FLSA.
The complaint maintains the defendants required their performers to pay for the right to work and took deductions from tips in violation of the IMWL rules.
The plaintiffs allege the defendants unjustly enriched themselves at their expense and caused them to suffer financial loss.
They are seeking damages including overtime pay owed to the plaintiffs, restitution, a refund of all tips, prejudgment interest, attorney fees, costs, and other relief.
The plaintiffs are represented by attorneys John Ireland of Elgin and David Fish of Naperville.