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Exotic dancer sues Baltimore club for unpaid wages

Another Baltimore strip club is facing a lawsuit from an exotic dancer who says the club failed to pay her the required minimum wage.

Oasis Nite Club

Oasis Nite Club (Maximilian Franz/The Daily Record)

Diamonde Grant, also known as Dimez, filed her lawsuit Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Baltimore against Oasis Nite Club. Her attorney, Jimmy A. Bell, said the dancer, who worked at the club from January 2009 to August 2012, was forced to take money out of her tips and give it to DJs, security staff and the club itself.

“It’s blatantly illegal,” said Bell, a solo practitioner in Oxon Hill. “This was a single mother of two children, both of whom are under 8 years old. By taking her tips, they literally took food out of the mouth of her children every day.”

According to the suit, Grant was required to pay out $60 of her tips to the club on weekdays and $80 on weekends. The Baltimore resident also said Oasis took half of the money she made for “private dances,” which were $150 and up.

Grant is seeking $200,000 in compensatory damages against the night club, formally known as Dreamplay Inc.

The club, located at 417 E. Baltimore St., is accused of violating the federal Fair Labor Standards Act and Maryland’s wage payment and collection laws, as well as negligence.

No one at Oasis answered a telephone call requesting comment on Tuesday.

The suit noted that Judge Robert W. Titus of the U.S. District Court in Greenbelt held in February 2005 that “as a matter of law, an exotic dancer is an employee as that term is used in the Fair Labor Standards Act and relevant Maryland … statutes.”

“This case is not different,” Grant said in her suit. “[Grant] was treated as an employee of the club, and she was required to attend mandatory meetings or she would be terminated.”

This is the second lawsuit this year that Bell has filed in Baltimore on behalf of an exotic dancer and the seventh he said he has filed since 2010. He said the complaint he filed in February against Norma Jean’s on behalf of Unique S. Butler is in the process of being settled.

Gregg C. Greenberg, an attorney who is not involved in the lawsuit but has represented plaintiffs in similar cases, said Monday the strip clubs are intentionally misclassifying the dancers as independent contractors to save money.

“[The dancers] actually have to pay to work,” said Greenberg, an attorney at Zipin Law Firm LLC in Silver Spring.

He said these types of lawsuits by dancers seeking to recover unpaid wages have been going on for the better part of a decade across the country.

“To say that the clubs aren’t fully aware [that they have to pay the dancers wages] stretches any type of reason,” he said. “They know what they are doing, and they say it’s less expensive to do it the illegal way and misclassify the dancers.”

Greenberg said he has filed 15 lawsuits in Maryland, District of Columbia, Virginia and West Virginia federal courts, and presently has open cases against three clubs in Baltimore: The Gentlemen’s Gold Club, the Players Club and The Millstream Inn. He said the clubs try to intimidate the dancers from filing suit by threatening to blacklist them from performing in other establishments.