Entertainment Law, Free Speech, Labor / Employment, Nude Dancing, State Judges, Tax Law, Texas

Stripper Law: A Potpourri of Pleadings From the Pole

Stripping is supposed to be a lucrative profession — just look at all of the law students racing to the poles in the hopes of obtaining gainful employment. And in some states, bumping and grinding on stage while wearing six-inch lucite heels is even considered an artful expression worthy of protection under the First Amendment. Unfortunately, two lawsuits in New York and Texas threaten to sabotage the erotic striptease entertainment that we’ve all come to know and love.

New York’s highest court is currently considering whether an adult club is entitled to a sales tax exemption for lap dances under the theory that they qualify as “dramatic or musical arts performances.” Meanwhile, in the Lone Star state, a plaintiff in a federal class action suit claims that strippers are misclassified as independent contractors and being forced to live on tips alone.

Now that we’ve greased the pole, let’s get ready for a feature performance from both of these suits….

Welcome Nite Moves to the stage, everybody! Nite Moves is a strip joint from Albany, New York, and she just wants her dancers’ booty-shaking to be recognized as the art form that it truly is. If Nite Moves fails in court, about 200 adult entertainment clubs will be forced to pony up more fees and taxes to the state.

The AP has more on the club’s attempt in court to prove that its dancers are really just “slutty ballerinas”:

During Wednesday’s arguments from the club’s lawyer, a skeptical Judge Eugene Pigott Jr. said the women are hired untrained and simply “do what they do.”

“We need to get past the idea that somehow this is the Bolshoi,” Pigott said.

[An attorney for Nite Moves, W. Andrew] McCullough, acknowledged that, but added: “What we’re saying is the state of New York doesn’t get to be a dance critic.”

We get it, Judge Pigott. You’re not a fan of having boobie tassels rhythmically swung in your face. But you know who might be? None other than Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman. When an attorney for the state argued that strippers’ dances aren’t “choreographed,” and thus wouldn’t qualify as an art form, Judge Lippman was quick to swoop in and defend pole dancing, noting that “creative artists in particular” often improvise.

(Perhaps Chief Judge Lippman was so quick to defend strippers because people awaiting admission to the New York bar will likely be forced to the take their clothes off for money thanks to his new pro bono requirement.)

According to the New York Law Journal, McCollough further defended Nite Moves with an observation that pole dancing was actually being considered as a new Olympic sport, and that the girls from his client’s club “would be on standing to make the team, they are that good.” One wonders how good they can be when the establishment is giving away coupons for free dances on its website, but that’s neither here nor there.

A ruling in the Nite Moves case is expected next month, but don’t worry, we’ve got more! Now coming to the stage is Esther Eliazio, a dancer at Baby Dolls in Texas. Eliazio alleges that she and other similarly situated strippers have been forced to live off tips alone because of their misclassification as independent contractors.

Show ’em what you’ve got, girl! Here are some of the details from Eliazio’s complaint (available here):

Right off the bat, even if you’re the sluttiest of ballerinas, it must suck to have to work the pole for 40 hours each week without so much as a paycheck to speak of. This is just the latest in a wave of class-action suits over strippers’ rights. Many of these cases have been successful, because judges feel that these women shouldn’t be forced to shake it for those who chose to make it hail (as opposed to those who make it rain). With this class-action suit, perhaps Easy E will be able to become a salaried stripper some day soon.

Best of luck to Nite Moves and Eliazio in their quest to make stripping free from taxes and from improper employee designations. Don’t forget to tip your waitress, and be sure to remove the stripper glitter before you return home (although it may be near impossible to do so).

NY court weighs if lap dance is tax-exempt art [Associated Press]
Court Considers If Exotic Dancing Is ‘Arts Performance’ [New York Law Journal]
Topless Dancers Sue Texas Strip Clubs [Courthouse News Service]

(hidden for your protection)

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