The Spearmint Rhino topless dancing clubs in Las Vegas and around the country have settled a lawsuit for $12.9 million with dancers who claimed they were denied all wages and benefits due them when they were wrongly classified as independent contractors.
The settlement was approved Oct. 5 by U.S. District Judge Virginia Phillips in Riverside, Calif. It involved a 2009 lawsuit filed by dancers at Spearmint Rhino and associated Rouge and Blue Zebra clubs in California, Nevada, Florida, Idaho, Kentucky and Texas.
The suit claimed the classification of the topless dancers as independent contractors -- a common practice in the industry -- was actually a misclassification since the dancers were treated like employees. The suit said the misclassification resulted in their being deprived of minimum wages and other benefits under state and federal law.
Dancers have said they are subjected to so many work rules and face so many fines for violation of club policies that they're actually employees.
The clubs also were accused of having unlawful tip-splitting arrangements requiring dancers to share tips with managers and employees, including doormen and DJs.
In settling the suit, the Spearmint Rhino group agreed to stop treating the dancers as independent contractors and instead treat them as employees, shareholders or partners.
A similar class-action suit on behalf of topless dancers at Sapphire in Las Vegas is pending before the Nevada Supreme Court.
That case, also filed in 2009, ended up at the state Supreme Court last year when a Clark County District Court judge ruled that 6,500 past and present Sapphire dancers were not employees under state law.