Working the pole doesn’t earn you workers’ compensation

LeAndra Lewis made her living, in the immortal words of Ludacris, shaking her money maker at several clubs in the Carolinas.  Lewis was working on the Boom Boom Room Studio 54 stage when the normal rain of Benjamins turned into a hail of gunfire.  A gun fight had erupted, catching Lewis in the crossfire with the dancer taking a shot in the abdomen.

Lewis’ injuries were serious, leading to the removal of a kidney and impacting her ability to have children.  According to Lewis, scars resulting from the shooting “…has made her unemployable as an exotic dancer.”

Being injured on the job and no longer able to do that job, Lewis filed a workers’ compensation claim in South Carolina – home of the Boom Boom Room Studio 54.  The workers’ compensation commission had one BIG problem with Lewis’ claim – Lewis did not work for the Boom Boom Room Studio 54.

Oh, Lewis worked the pole at the Boom Boom Room Studio 54, but she wasn’t an actual employee of this particular club.  How can you work it without working?  Here’s how:

Lewis presented several fellow exotic dancers as witnesses to explain that dancers often choose a city and a club to dance in on a particular night and travel there uninvited and unannounced. In keeping with this practice, Lewis showed up at the Boom Boom Room on this particular night, showed her identification to prove she was at least eighteen years old, and paid the required “tip-out” fee in cash to the club. She did not fill out an employment application and did not sign an employment agreement. The club gave her a “rules sheet,” she went to the dressing room to put on her outfit, and she danced. [source]

This type of work arrangement didn’t pass the Wilkinson test, which the South Carolina Court of Appeals used to decide employment status.  Lewis’ control of her work – showing up when she wants, paying clubs to work, bringing her own equipment, collecting money straight from the customers, leaving whenever she wants – meant she failed the Wilkinson test and was not an employee.  

As Lewis isn’t an employee, she’s not eligible for workers’ compensation.  The court was silent on Lewis’ eligibility for other typess of legal compensation.



Image from The Week
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