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Court certifies exotic dancer suit as class action

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Anyone who danced in the past three years at one Indianapolis strip club embroiled in a lawsuit over minimum wage may be able to collect on unpaid wages, ruled a District Court judge Wednesday.

Southern District Judge William Lawrence granted a motion for notice to potential plaintiffs and certified the matter as a collective action in Wendi R. Morse and Felicia Kay Pennington, individually, and on behalf of others similarly situated v. M E R Corp. d/b/a Dancers Showclub, No. 1:08-cv-1389.

Dancers Wendi R. Morse and Felicia Kay Pennington filed the suit in October 2008 alleging the club failed to pay them and others similarly situated in accordance with the Fair Labor Standards Act. They no longer worked at the club when they filed the suit but had worked there within the past three years.

The plaintiffs argued Dancers Showclub incorrectly classified dancers as independent contractors instead of employees and failed to pay them minimum wage. The suit also claims Dancers Showclub required the women to pay a percentage of their tips to the club and other employees who don't customarily receive tips, violating 29 U.S.C. Section 203(m).

Dancers don't receive any wages or other compensation from the club and they aren't allowed to dance at any other exotic clubs while working at Dancers Showclub. The suit also states the club sets the hours, shifts, and minimum tips the dancers are required to get each shift.

The plaintiffs want the club to repay back wages in addition to wages equal to the amount they had to tip-out to the club and other employees, as well as liquidated damages equal in amount to the unpaid compensation and tips found due to the dancers.

Judge Lawrence certified the suit as a collective action, ordering Dancers Showclub to produce the names and other employee information of all the current and former dancers at the club from the previous three years as of the date of the order. The judge ordered Dancers Showclub to produce the information by Jan. 18 and required the notice to potential plaintiffs and consent to join form be mailed within 7 days from that date. Potential plaintiffs have 60 days from that point to opt-in the litigation.

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