Prostitution Accusations as a Control Tactic

Independent contractors and lease holders are allowed to leave a workplace whenever they wish, or to come and go as they please. Employees must follow a schedule, shift, hourly arrangement or otherwise be dominated by times set by the business that employs them. Employees often must notify their employer when they are leaving to take a lunch break, or must only have a certain amount of time when going out to eat during a work shift. Independent contractors or lease holders are their own bosses, and legally aren't required to work any certain hours. Strip clubs rarely respect these Economic Realities differences.

One common way that strip clubs prevent dancers from leaving work early is to accuse them of being prostitutes who are going to meet with customers outside of the club. There were vague rumors of this throughout my career that I didn't pay much attention to, but the first time a prostitution accusation really bothered me was at conciliation court in early 2016.

I was representing myself against King of Diamonds in Minnesota, which I won for myself. Their attorney and I were verbally sparring, when he began saying, "PROSTITUTION," while nudging his head my way, looking at the judge. If the judge was less progressive, perhaps he would have been prejudiced by this accusation and ruled in favor of King of Diamonds. Their lawyer knew about this stigma and prejudice; that's why he did that to me. It really bothered me that someone would accuse me of prostitution at King of Diamonds, not because I want to further stigmatize full service workers, but because I was so cold and assertive with customers, that to think I would do that at King of Diamonds is an absurd misrepresentation of who I am. I regularly had customers walk out of dances and complain because I wouldn't let them touch me. It was very dishonest and inaccurate for that King of Diamonds attorney to accuse me of doing "PROSTITUTION." That is part of the reason why winning that case was so wonderful.

In rural Minnesota, there is a club with fliers on the walls, forbidding dancers from leaving early, explicitly accusing them of going home with customers if they don't work their entire shifts. When I saw these fliers, it was interesting to me the way the club was using old fashion prostitute-shaming to aid them in violating the Economic Realities Test. Strip clubs are rife with hatred and shame for full service workers, so accusing dancers of this is really helpful in violating labor law. Strippers are notorious for ganging up on and accusing other strippers of doing full service work. It was fascinating to me that this club was leveraging that stigma. Strip clubs want to keep all of their workers on a shift the entire time, so that customers are happy with a variety of women to look at. But, strip clubs don't want to classify their employees correctly. This particular club did fire dancers for leaving early at times, including one dancer who had a baby and subsequently couldn't always stay a whole shift, due to heavy postpartum bleeding.

Recently during a jury trial for another Minnesota club, a very cruel, elderly, female former manager of mine successfully convinced the jury that I was a prostitute who was leaving early to meet with customers, and that she sometimes didn't let me leave early because she was worried about my safety. That wasn't true at all. I asked to leave early so I could surf the internet or go to sleep alone. She never cared about my safety at all. This manager would regularly threaten to fire or actually fire dancer employees for not doing what she ordered us to do. I audio recorded her not letting me leave early, so she had to come up with a way to get the jury against me. She couldn't deny the recording or her violation of Economic Realities. She succeeded at getting the jury to sympathize with her-- the jury thought I was a prostitute, and that my manager was completely justified in not letting me leave early. The jury didn't seem to care about misclassification at all. The scarlet letter of Prostitute had been branded on me by this vile, pitiful, miserable old woman, and respect for labor law was disregarded.

Most recently, I started working at an Ohio club with an owner and manager who didn't know about my history. On my second night working, I tried to leave early, because I was tired and wanted to go to sleep. The owner came up to me and began accusing me of things while looking inside my purse and pulling out a piece of paper with assigned dance prices on it. I had to draft a letter to them, informing them that I knew my rights. The results at work have been interesting so far, and I will cover them in a future post.

Late last year, I worked at a club in Nebraska that was terrified of getting sued again. I have never seen a workplace more lenient about letting dancers leave early. It was wonderful. I could go to sleep whenever I wanted, without getting accused of being a prostitute or threatened with termination. If I wanted to work for two hours, I could do that. If I wanted to work for ten hours, I could do that too. Their club operated just fine that way. Of course, I don't thank the owner of the club for that-- I thank the dancer who came before me with the courage to sue the fucker, and the woman attorney who served his ass on a platter in beautiful Eastern Nebraska.