Club owners have been classifying strippers as independent contractors for years, which allows them to avoid paying payroll taxes and offering health insurance, and lets them get away with not complying with discrimination laws. Strippers do not qualify for unemployment benefits, and may not qualify for Social Security and Medicare if they fail to properly report their income.
But, strippers are tightly scheduled at the clubs and must appear for particular shifts, must comply with the club owner’s mandates about costume and music, and must adhere to other owner decisions about how and when they work. In many cases, “independent contractors” whose working hours and location are designated by the boss have been legally reclassified as employees.
Independent contractor strippers earn they pay only from tips, and they frequently have to actually pay the club owner certain fees in order to be able to work. This includes up to $200 per shift in “stage fees”, fees for DJs, and often the strippers are forced to share in overhead costs for the club.
Many strippers have begun banding together, and court cases have gone in their favor recently, including a ruling in November 2012, when strippers who worked at the Spearmint Rhino chain in California won a $13 million settlement in a federal court case.
Hima B., a former stripper in San Francisco who is working on a documentary about strippers' labor rights, says, “Stripping is legal. This is a group of workers and they deserve rights."