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OFF BEAT: Court rules Vegas exotic dancers are due workers comp, less skimpy pay


The exotic dancers at a popular semi-nude Las Vegas strip club will no longer have to risk taking one wrong step in a 5-inch heel or losing their grip on the pole without the protection of workers compensation insurance.

The approximately 6,600 performers at Sapphire Gentlemen’s Club are “employees,” not “independent contractors,” and are therefore entitled to workers comp benefits as well as Nevada’s minimum hourly wage, the state Supreme Court ruled unanimously Thursday.

In the District Court of Clark County, Nevada, Sapphire performers said they are “employees” and should be guaranteed a minimum wage based on the state law that defines employees as “persons in the service of an employer under any appointment or contract of hire or apprenticeship, express or implied, oral or written, whether lawfully or unlawfully employed,” court records show.

As independent contractors, Sapphire performers weren’t paid an hourly wage by Sapphire, records show. Instead, their income depended on tips and dancing fees paid by Sapphire patrons.

A District Court judge ruled that the performers were independent contractors — not employees, according to records.

The performers appealed and, on Thursday, a panel of seven Nevada Supreme Court judges unanimously ruled to reverse the District Court’s decision and remand the case to Clark County District Court for further proceedings.

Under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act, one factor that determines if an employment relationship exists is “whether the service rendered is an integral part of the alleged employer’s business,” according to the ruling.

Sapphire had attempted to argue that exotic dancing is not an integral part of the business, however, “given that Sapphire bills itself as the ‘World’s Largest Strip Club,’ and not, say, a sports bar or night club, we are confident that the women strip-dancing there are useful and indeed necessary to its operation,” the ruling states.

According to reports, the trial judge is to decide how much current and former performers are owed in back wages. The minimum wage in Nevada is $8.25 per hour, though service employees who also receive tips might make less.

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