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A South Carolina woman who was shot while working as an exotic dancer is an employee, not an independent contractor, and is therefore entitled to workers compensation, the state Supreme Court ruled Wednesday.
While working as an exotic dancer in 2008, LeAndra Lewis was struck in the abdomen by a stray bullet when a fight broke out at the Boom Boom Room Studio 54 in Columbia, South Carolina, court records show.
Ms. Lewis, who danced at different establishments throughout North and South Carolina five to seven days a week, had performed at the Boom Boom Room three times prior to the incident, according to records.
Ms. Lewis suffered serious injuries to her intestines, liver, pancreas and uterus, and surgeons removed one of her kidneys, records show.
She filed a claim for workers comp requesting temporary total disability benefits and medical treatment from the date of the accident, according to records. However, the South Carolina Uninsured Employer’s Fund, which disputed Ms. Lewis’s claim on behalf of her employer, argued that she was an independent contractor and not entitled to benefits.
In 2012, a divided South Carolina Court of Appeals affirmed the state Workers’ Compensation Commission’s ruling that Ms. Lewis was not an employee and not entitled to benefits.
The South Carolina Supreme Court disagreed, ruling 3-1 on Wednesday that Ms. Lewis was an employee, not an independent contractor. The case was remanded to the court of appeals to address the question of Ms. Lewis’ compensation rate.
The state Supreme Court disagreed with the lower court’s finding that the Boom Boom Room didn’t dictate how Ms. Lewis danced, and therefore didn’t “control her work.”
“We find this a myopic view in light of the facts presented,” the majority ruling states. “Prior to working her shift, Lewis was required to pay a tip-out fee, undergo a search, and review the club’s rule sheet. … The club set the minimum for a V.I.P. dance — which she was required to perform if asked — and specified an area for those to take place. Although Lewis technically performed routines of her own direction, the club specified her degree of nudity — she was required to be topless, but would be fined for removing more. Additionally, she was not permitted to leave her shift early without paying a fine.”
The dissenting justice wrote that he agreed with the analysis by the South Carolina Court of Appeals that Ms. Lewis was not an employee and not entitled to benefits.
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.