Strippers In Kansas Won Unemployment Benefits! Here’s Why Non-Strippers Should Be Happy About That

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Fans of fair labor practices, rejoice! After a seven-year legal battle, strippers in Kansas have been awarded unemployment benefits by the state Supreme Court on the grounds that their classification as “independent contractors” is incorrect.

The case first started in 2005, when a former dancer at Milano’s strip club in Topeka, KS filed an unemployment claim. The case made it all the way up to the Supreme Court, which decided that strippers at the club were real employees, and not independent contractors, because the club had “right of control” over them in that that they had to show up at certain hours and follow a set of house rules.

Additionally, the court said the strippers were employees because they were a key part of the strip club‘s financial success (um, do you think?).

Via Business Insider:

“The proof of the extent of the dancers’ integration into Club Orleans business is shown by billboards exhibiting the pictures of dancers, pictures of dancers on the outside of the club’s building, and newspaper advertisements with pictures of dancers and promotions involving dancers,” Department of Labor officials claimed in court filings.

This is a big deal, and not just for strippers. Many industries run on misclassified workers—stripping, shipping, fashion, and, dare I say it, media—and once you are in that independent contractor category, there’s not a lot you can do about it, as independent contractors cannot legally strike or form unions. To give you some perspective on this, a bunch of big, tough port truckers went on wildcat (illegal) strikes for similar reasons after deregulation killed their unions in the 1980s, and even they were ultimately unsuccessful. That a lone woman was able to do this is a testament to her bravery. Girl power!

Of course, as someone who favors collective action, I obviously prefer it when a bunch of workers band together to achieve a victory, rather than relying on the courts. But in this case, it seems like a court case was the most effective route to success, and anyway, the net result is the same: strippers now enjoy the same safety net extended to most (but not all) workers in America.

This is obviously nice for Kansas strippers and people who care about other people in general. But you should care about this even if you hate Kansas strippers, because it could have huge implications as to who might get these kinds of benefits next. If you’re a freelance employee with set hours and rules who works full-time for one client, you’d certainly do well to watch this space. Maybe someday, us Americans will live in a country where no one will be out on their ass if they lose their job.

(Via Business Insider)

Photo: WENN

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    • Eileen

      I have no problems with freelance work or independent contracting. It allows freelancers the, well, freedom to pick and choose the projects they want to work on – to take a couple of months off if they feel like it, for example, or depending on the job, to choose to do their work between 2 and 4 AM or while on vacation in Jamaica. But if you’re not enjoying these benefits, then no, you’re not a 1099, you’re an employee, and your employer needs to bear his share of your federal taxes and you should be entitled to whatever unemployment benefits other employees are. It’s ridiculous to consider a stripper to be an independent contractor when you have the right to give her a regular shift.

    • Cate

      This actually isn’t the best thing ever for the still-employed strippers in Kansas and elsewhere. Independent contractor status for strippers is really important! It means we are able to keep most of our money, make our own schedules, and work pretty much at will. In 2009 a bunch of dancers managed to get employee status in Massachusetts (I’m pretty sure all strippers in Massachusetts must legally be considered employees now) and things got really, really shitty for them. Stripping for a wage defeats everything that’s wonderful about the job and employee status means there must be a wage.
      It’s deeply problematic when clubs treat strippers like employees, yes, but legislation like this that suggests strippers are misclassified is, in a lot of ways, more problematic.
      It’s obviously way more complicated than that, but that’s the condensed comment version.