Ann Maher Feb. 4, 2014, 10:43am

Strippers at three local adult clubs claim they are due unpaid wages and other relief because they have been misclassified as independent contractors rather than as employees.

Brandy Apple and Amanda Sheer filed a proposed class action against the owner and operator of PT’s clubs in Brooklyn and Centreville – VCG Holding Corp. – on behalf of women who worked at the clubs between Jan. 18, 2004 through Jan. 17, 2011.

VCG is a Colorado corporation with its principal place of business located in Colorado, according to the complaint. The company’s registered agent is Michael L. Ocello and its chief executive officer is Troy H. Lowrie.

The suit was filed Jan. 31 in federal court in East St. Louis. Apple and Sheer are represented by St. Louis attorney Neil Smith of the Smith Law Firm.

The women also claim they have wrongfully been required to share tip income with the owner as well as with managers, floor walkers, DJs, doormen and others who do not usually receive tips.

They claim that the owners of PT’s violated the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), Illinois Minimum Wage Act and other labor laws and threatened retaliation against any dancer who asserted her statutory right to be recognized as an employee.

The women say the test for determining whether an individual is an employee under FLSA and other wage and hour laws is the economic reality test. They say employee status turns on whether the individual is, as a matter of economic reality, in business for herself and truly independent, or rather is economically dependent upon finding employment in others.

The dancers claim they are economically dependent on PT’s. They say management obtains the customers who desire exotic dance entertainment and sets hours, guidelines and minimum tip scales, among other things.

“While working at the Nightclubs dancers like Plaintiffs perform exotic table, chair, couch, lap and/or VIP room dances for patrons offering them tips,” the suit states.

“Plaintiffs, like all other dancers, are not required to have any specialized or unusual skills to work at the Nightclubs. Prior dance experience is not required to perform at the Nightclubs. Dancers are not required to attain a certain level of skill in order to work at the Nightclubs.

“There are no dance seminars, no specialized training, no instruction booklets, and no choreography provided or required in order to work at any of the nightclubs…Dancers, like Plaintiffs, own no enterprises.

“The scope of the dancer’s initiative is restricted to decisions involving what clothes to wear or how provocatively to dance which is consistent with the status of an employee opposed to an independent contractor.”

The suit claims the defendant and affiliated companies were aware of previous litigation and enforcement actions related to wage and hour law violations where the misclassification of exotic dancers as independent contractors was challenged.

In September, a federal judge in New York ruled that strippers are protected by labor laws and are entitled to be paid at least minimum wage. The defendant club had argued the women were independent contractors.

“In the vast majority of those prior cases, exotic dancers working under conditions similar to those employed at the Nightclubs were determined to be employees under the wage and hour laws, not independent contractors,” the suit claims.

“Further, Defendant was aware, and on actual or constructive notice, that Illinois law rendered all table dance tips given to class members by patrons when working in the Nightclubs the dancers/class member’s sole property, rendering Defendant’s tip-share, rent and tip-out policies unlawful. “

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