Dancers say strip clubs owe them $324,000

WAGE: Women claimed they were forced to pay house fees to work.

Anchorage Daily NewsDecember 31, 2011 

A pay dispute between three Anchorage women and the strip clubs in which they danced is set for trial this week after more than five years of legal wrangling in state and federal court.

The strippers are scheduled to appear in federal court for hearings starting Tuesday. They say their former employers at Fantasies on 5th Avenue and the Crazy Horse Saloon ripped them off with bogus fees and cheated them out of overtime.

Shanna "Brooke" Thornton, Jennifer Prater and Heather "Kelly" Kidd say the clubs also failed to pay minimum wages and forced them to pool their tips to give to other employees. They claim they're owed a total of more than $324,000 in back pay and other compensation.

Owners of the clubs -- Jeanette Johnson at Crazy Horse and Kathleen and Carol Hartman at Fantasies -- have denied any wrongdoing.

Efforts to reach a settlement have apparently been unsuccessful, according to court records. U.S. District Judge Timothy Burgess denied a motion by the strippers to designate the case as a class-action lawsuit, which would've likely included many other Fantasies or Crazy Horse dancers in the suit. But the judge also recently denied a motion by the clubs to dismiss the case. Now it is scheduled for a non-jury trial in federal court, where Burgess will attempt to determine how much money, if any, the women are owed.

"It's a shame that it was not settled earlier," said the plaintiffs' lawyer, Kenneth Legacki, who declined to give any other comment.

According to court documents, Thornton worked at both clubs between 2003 and 2006, and Prater and Kidd worked at the Crazy Horse in 2005 and 2006.

At issue are thousands of dollars the women say they paid to the clubs during those time periods as a requirement to work.

While making $7.15 an hour, the state minimum wage at the time, the Crazy Horse dancers were required to pay a $10 "house fee" for every hour that they worked, the court papers say. At Fantasies, the house fee was $15 per hour. Both clubs required the dancers to tip their "house moms," or floor supervisors, along with doormen and DJs. There were also requirements to sell souvenirs or drinks to customers and "fines" if they failed, according to the court documents.

Prater, in a 2006 interview, told the Daily News she once worked an eight-hour shift at Fantasies and took home just $8. She provided a two-week paycheck that showed she worked 23 hours in a pay period and earned just $7.41.

"When I first did this, I went home with bloody feet from dancing in these shoes," Prater said at the time. "I deserve to get paid for what I do."

The trial is set to begin at 8:30 a.m. Tuesday in Anchorage.


Reach Casey Grove at casey.grove@adn.com or 257-4589.

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