An attorney for 249 exotic dancers are collectively entitled to $13.1 million in damages because management of a Southland strip club illegally took tips they earned from private off-stage dances, an attorney told a jury Monday, but a lawyer for the club said it’s doubtful the lead plaintiff even worked there.
Reiterating that the 1983 Donna Summer hit, “She Works Hard for the Money,” was an apropos theme for the 249 dancers’ case, attorney K.L. Myles said during her closing argument in trial of the class-action lawsuit that the time had come for the plaintiffs to be paid what they are owed for their dances at Paradise Showgirls in the City of Industry.
“They weren’t treated right, were they?,” Myles asked the Los Angeles Superior Court panel.
But club attorney Ernest Franceschi said a better analogy was the 1985 Eurythmics hit, “Would I Lie to You?” He suggested 29-year-old class representative Quinece Hills did just that because no manager at Paradise Showgirls can remember her, though she claimed to have worked there during portions of 2006 and 2007.
Franceschi, who says management was entitled to take portions of the strippers’ money earned as the cost of renting small spaces at the club to perform private dances, maintained that Hills even admitted in her testimony that the money she claims were tips were actually fees for the dances she provided.
“Ms. Hills undermines her own premise in this case,” Franceschi said.
Franceschi told jurors that only one dancer, Hills, testified during the trial. “Where are the other 248?”
He also said that although the club did not pay the dancers regular wages, a stripper on average earned about $520 an hour from the private dances.
“How abusive is that?,” Franceschi asked.
Franceschi said Hills could not have auditioned as she claimed in 2005 because Paradise Showgirls does not conduct such sessions.
According to Myles, state law is unique when it comes to exotic dancers because it allows performers to treat money directly obtained from customers for private dancers as gratuities.
“This is the dancers’ hard-earned money,” Myles said. “Ladies and gentlemen, they have earned this money from the customers.”
Club managers admitted that at the end of the strippers’ shifts, they took $14 of the $40 the dancers obtained from lap dances and $100 of the cash they obtained for longer “VIP dances” that took place in a private room, Myles said.
Myles said a club manager also admitted that many work records of the dancers were destroyed after Hills filed the lawsuit in May 2010. The class period begins in May 2006 because the statute of limitations for making such a claim is four years.
Myles said an accountant used available business records to put together her conclusion that the dancers are owed $13.1 million.
“It is money that should be returned to the dancers,” Myles said.
Myles said Hills is not a lawyer and therefore did not understand that the cash given her and the other strippers for private dancers were gratuities and not fees. She chided Franceschi for saying his clients do not conduct auditions, saying it was unlikely the women would be allowed to dance nude at Paradise Showgirls if managers did not know what they looked like with their clothes off.
Myles is scheduled to conclude the second part of her final argument on Tuesday before the case goes to the jury.
Hills testified she quit exotic dancing in 2011 and now works as a makeup artist. She said she has a 4-year-old son.
— City News Service
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