Kansas Supreme Court rules strippers are employees

In 2005, a former stripper at Club Orleans in Topeka filed for unemployment benefits. The club owner fought to block her claim, on the grounds that strippers were not Club Orleans employees but rather independent contractors who rented stage space and got paid by customers. The distinction was important to the owner, who wanted to avoid paying the employer contribution to the state’s unemployment benefits fund.

The Kansas Department of Labor, two lower courts and now the Kansas Supreme Court ruled against the club owner. He says he kept fighting on principle, but he won’t appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The state Labor Department argued that strippers were essential to the club’s business model (yep) and that the club asserted too much control over the strippers’ actions for the “independent contractor” claim to hold up. The Kansas City Star quoted and summarized these arguments:

“Club Orleans’ main attraction is semi-nude female dancers. The dancers are integral to the club’s financial success because, without the dancers, nothing distinguishes Club Orleans from any other food and drink establishment.

“The proof of the extent of the dancers’ integration into Club Orleans business is shown by billboards exhibiting the pictures of dancers, pictures of dancers on the outside of the club’s building, and newspaper advertisements with pictures of dancers and promotions involving dancers.”

House rules governed what the dancers could do in their shows and the prices they had to charge for specific types of dances. Employees of the club would enforce the price structure on the dancers and the customers, court records said.

The women were required to sign in with the bouncer at the beginning of a shift and weren’t allowed to leave the premises until the end of the shift, according to the Labor Department.

“While Milano’s claims one reason for this is to prevent prostitution … it is reasonable to conclude that this restriction of the dancers’ movement is to ensure that the dancers mingle with the club’s customers between their dance rotations to encourage customers to purchase drinks and food,” a Labor Department filing said. “Milano’s rules go as far as mandating that the dancers cannot refuse a customer’s offer to purchase the dancer a beverage.”

“Most telling, the house set various rules, and dancers’ violations of those rules were punishable by fines and termination.”

Hard to argue with any of that. Strip clubs should have to pay their taxes like any other business.