Unpaid Charlotte strippers sue club - demanding back wages, overtime

Unpaid Charlotte strippers sue club - demanding back wages, overtime

CHARLOTTE, NC (Michael Gordon/The Charlotte Observer) - Rapper Drake once reportedly threw $50,000 worth of bills in the air during a visit to Cameo, an adult entertainment club near Charlotte Douglas airport.

But despite that widely reported 2013 incident, five dancers at Cameo say they have been shortchanged for years, according to a lawsuit filed Thursday.

In the suit, they accuse the club of violating labor laws by failing to pay them salaries and overtime. They have asked the federal courts to award them years of back wages, overtime and interest – money the women say they rightfully earned but never received.

Damon Woolums, the owner of the club on Park South Drive in west Charlotte and a defendant in the dancers' complaint, could not be reached for comment Thursday.

The complaint against his club joins litigation that has hit adult entertainment clubs in multiple states. Most of the cases have involved labor and wage disputes.

State and federal labor laws also require that "tipped employees" receive a minimum wage of at least $2.13 an hour, the Cameo lawsuit alleges.

Many of the previous wage-and-hour disputes stemmed from the traditional policy of the adult entertainment industry to classifying dancers as independent contractors.

"These are employees, no different from waiters or waitresses," Maryland labor attorney Gregg Greenberg recently told the Baltimore Sun.

In the latest example, the Cameo women say they have been treated like employees but not paid as such. They say Woolums and a Cameo "house mom" identified as "Sirinity" dictate who gets to dance and when, and what the women must wear.

Cameo, as with many clubs, also charges a "house fee" that the dancers must pay for the chance to perform, the lawsuit says. In some instances, club management requires strippers to pay for backstage makeup applications before they go on.

The house also controls what the women can charge for lap dances and other specialized performances or which dancers work the lucrative VIP areas, normally a source of the highest tips, the women say.

At the end of the night, the women also must split their tips with the house mom, the club's disc jockeys and other staff, the lawsuit says. They can also be fined for various infractions, including missing stage calls.

Previous complaints by adult dancers that have ended in lucrative payouts.

In 2016, a club owner in Key West, Fla., paid $1.2 million to settle a wage complaint by his dancers. In New York City, a Manhattan club owner paid $10 million to end a 2015 lawsuit over dancer pay.

A similar 2014 lawsuit in Dallas ended with a $2.3 million settlement for the dancers.Researcher Maria David contributed to this story.

Researcher Maria David contributed to this story.