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Unpaid Minimum Wages

Hart v. Rick’s Cabaret
International, Inc.

Our attorneys represented a class and collective action of adult entertainers in Hart v. Rick’s Cabaret Int’l, Inc., No. 09 Civ 3043. The exotic club where they danced misclassified them as independent contractors rather than employees, and it did not pay them wages, and instead required them to pay to work.

Class Certification

The district court certified a class of approximately 2,300 entertainers under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23 to pursue claims under New York Labor Law, and it denied the club’s request to decertify the collective action under the Fair Labor Standards Act. 2010 WL 5297221, at *1 (S.D.N.Y. Dec. 20, 2010).

Employees Not Independent Contractors

The district court next found that the dancers qualified as employees under state and federal law, granting in part our affirmative motion for partial summary judgment. 967 F. Supp. 2d 901 (S.D.N.Y. Sept. 10, 2013).

“The Court comfortably concludes as a matter of economic reality that the dancers at Rick's NY were employees, not independent contractors. Rick's NY exerted significant control over its dancers' behavior; Rick's NY had the dominant opportunity for profit; the exotic dancers had no specialized skills and a limited real investment (essentially in their costumes and nightly fees); and the dancers were integral to the success of Rick's NY. . . .. Indeed, under the FLSA test, the five factors lopsidedly favor a finding that the dancers at the Club were employees..”

- Judge Engelmayer, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York

The court also found that the money entertainers received from customers were tips, rather than service charges that could offset wage obligations. The court further determined that the club violated New York Labor Law by charging Class and Collective Members fines and fees as a condition of employment.

In a later summary judgment decision, the court carefully analyzed the club’s timekeeping data and concluded that a reasonable jury could conclude that the class was owed less than $10.8 million. 2014 WL 6238175 (S.D.N.Y. Nov. 14, 2014).

Settlement

On September 22, 2015, the court granted final approval of a class-wide $15 million gross settlement, finding the settlement to be fair, reasonable, and adequate and further awarding plaintiffs’ counsel’s attorneys’ fees, expenses, and service awards to the named plaintiffs and discovery participants. 2015 WL 5577713 (S.D.N.Y. Sept. 22, 2015).

“Nichols Kaster was energetic, effective, and creative throughout this long litigation. The Court found Nichols Kaster’s briefs and arguments first-rate. And the documents and deposition transcripts which the Court reviewed in the course of resolving motions revealed the firm’s far-sighted and strategic approach to discovery . . . . .Further, unlike in many class actions, plaintiffs’ counsel did not build their case by piggybacking on regulatory investigation or settlement. . . . The lawyers at Nichols Kaster can genuinely claim to have been the authors of their clients’ success.”

- Judge Engelmayer, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York
Settlement Amount
$15,000,000

Past results are reported to provide an indication of the type of litigation in which we practice and should not be construed to create an expectation in any other case as all cases are dependent upon their own unique fact situation and applicable law. Any result we might have achieved on behalf of one client does not necessarily indicate similar results can be obtained for other clients.

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