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Dancer sues strip club for unfair labor practices

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Local,Crime,Scott McCabe

An exotic dancer is suing the Mile High Club in Clinton, claiming that the strip club charged her to work and did not pay her for performing hundreds of hours of lap dances.

Stephanie Ashe, who goes by the stage name Frenchie, argues that the club classified its dancers as independent contractors instead of regular employees to get around paying minimum wage and other benefits to the dancers. She said she was fined if she missed work or was late and had to follow the dress code and other rules.

Ashe is seeking "well into six-figures," said her attorney, Jimmy Bell.

A person who answered the phone Wednesday said he could not comment about the lawsuit.

Ashe's lawsuit comes three weeks after strippers employed as independent contractors won an unprecedented $13 million class-action suit in California for similar complaints.

According to the lawsuit filed in Prince George's County Circuit Court, Ashe worked at the Mile High Club from October 2009 to August 2011.

Ashe, of the District of Columbia, said she put in about 37 hours a week and performed an average of about 30 lap dances a week.

The money she made was from the $30 tips she received for each lap dance. She was required to pay back the club $10 for each dance she performed, in addition to a nightly fee.

"It is illegal to make them pay to come to work," Bell said. "We would think it was crazy for the Gaylord to tell a waiter that you would have pay just to come to work."

On Dec. 19, 2010, the owner, identified in court documents as Pedro Juan Ponce, called the dancers to a meeting to address lawsuits filed against the club by former dancers.

Ponce called the former dancers "stupid" and said because of them, he would be required to pay the dancers a minimum wage of $3.50 per hour, the suit states.

Ponce told the women he couldn't afford to pay them minimum wage, so he said he came up with an idea to keep his business open, the lawsuit said. The dancers would pay a $35 to $55 "tip out" each night, which the business would then give "right back" to the girls in a biweekly paycheck, the suit states.

Ashe said the tip out money was never returned to her and the business never paid her for her work.

smccabe@washingtonexaminer.com

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