A court has ruled that strippers in Kansas are now eligible for unemployment insurance and other employment benefits after a former dancer challenged their classification as independent contractors.
The Kansas Supreme Court decided on Friday to end the Milano’s vs. Kansas Department of Labor Contributions Unit suit. It stemmed from an unemployment claim filed in 2005 by a semi-nude female dancer at Club Orleans in Topeka, Kansas.
Milano’s Inc. owns Club Orleans and always classified exotic dancers as independent contractors. This meant they could not obtain unemployment benefits if they were terminated.
The Labor Department said the demands placed upon the dancers made them eligible to be classified as employees.
Dancers were required to pay “rent” for using the stage and dressing rooms and pay extra fees to the disc jockeys and bouncers.
“Milano’s rules go as far as mandating that the dancers cannot refuse a customer’s offer to purchase the dancer a beverage,” the department said.
Ultimately, the Supreme Court agreed.
“Ample substantial competent evidence in the record before us...demonstrates that Milano’s possessed such a right of control over the dancers at Club Orleans. Most telling, the house set various rules, and the dancers’ violations of those rules were punishable by fines and termination,” the court said.
This means if dancers are laid off, they are eligible for unemployment. The club also has to contribute to the state fund which pays for the benefits.
This comes after many dancers have objected to being classified as independent contractors. In the Atlantic last year, Melissa Gira Grant expressed her disdain for the classification.
“By managing dancers like employees but putting them on the books as independent contractors, club owners get out of paying dancers the benefits they’re legally entitled to, which could include worker’s compensation, unemployment, and health insurance if they qualify,” she said.
But others have expressed opposition to being official employees. One dancer, Bubbles Burbujas, said that it could mean paying more money to the club.
“Once you are classified as an employee, the money you receive for private dances and on stage can be considered as money paid to the club for a service, and therefore the club gets to decide what percentage of that you might get to keep,” she said.