Topless Dancers Sue Texas Strip Clubs

     DALLAS (CN) - Dallas-area strip clubs cheat topless dancers by paying them zero wages, forcing them to live off tips, a dancer claims in a federal class action.
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     Named plaintiff Esther Sue Eliazio sued Baby Dolls Topless Saloons, DB Entertainment, BDS Restaurant, and Baby Dolls of Dallas. She also sued Steven Craft, listing him under the address as the corporate defendants, with the exception of Baby Dolls of Dallas.
     Eliazio says she worked as a dancer for more than 40 hours per week, but the defendants stiffed her for overtime.
     "In fact, defendants refused to compensate the plaintiff for all the hours she worked," the complaint states. "Plaintiff's only compensation was in the form of tips from club patrons."
     Eliazio says the defendants advertise themselves as "a family of gentlemen's clubs."
     She adds: "The dancers, like the plaintiff, are compensated exclusively through tips from defendants' customers. That is, defendants do not pay dancers whatsoever for any hours worked in their establishments."
     In fact, Eliazio says, dancers have to pay to work: they are charged a "house fee" for each shift and must share their tips with non-service employees who do not customarily receive tips, including disc jockeys and managers.
     "Finally, defendants encouraged their customers to tip dancers using house certificates rather than cash," the complaint states. "When the dancers turn in the certificates to the clubs for cash, defendants do not return full value to them. Instead, defendants retain a portion of the tips. This results in the defendants taking a portion of the tips that should be paid to the dancer."
     Eliazio says Baby Dolls misclassifies dancers as independent contractors, to duck minimum wage and overtime wage laws, but that dancers are hired, fired, supervised and must work as anyone in an employer-employee relationship.
     Baby Dolls operates two clubs, one in Dallas and one in Fort Worth.
     A third club in Arlington was closed after the city adopted tougher ordinances targeting sexually oriented businesses.
     Eliazio seeks actual and punitive damages for violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act. She is represented by Galvin Kennedy with Kennedy Hodges of Houston.