Two lap dancers have lost a legal battle with strip club bosses after an employment tribunal confirmed they were independent contractors and not employees.
Jessica Clifford and flatmate Tineill Hamilton-Redmond failed to show up for a Calendar Girls shift in Christchurch last September.
Clifford, 22, was fined and later told by James Samson, whose family has a financial stake in the gentleman's club, not to return to work as she had been fired.
Hamilton-Redmond was taken off the roster last November and eventually resigned.
Both ex-strippers took Casino Bar Limited, which runs Calendar Girls in Christchurch, to the Employment Relations Authority (ERA) claiming unjustified dismissal, and in the case of Hamilton-Redmond, unjustified constructive dismissal.
ERA member David Appleton heard how Calendar Girls' policies document describes the main purpose of a dancer as being to "entertain, perform, tantalise and tease ... To perform erotic lap dancers [sic]. To dance/pole dance on stage till nude".
The exotic dancers denied ever seeing the seven-page document, which contained a mixture and rules to the dancers.
The document, provided to the ERA, states how dancers' personal hygiene and make-up should be immaculate at all times; lingerie should match and clothes should "imply sexiness and sensuality"; dancers must "have their top off by the end of the first song and their G-string off by the end of the second song"; tips must be collected in the nude; and that dancers are forbidden to discuss their income and are responsible for their own tax.
It also outlined the club's fines system for dancers, which included $50 for a missed stage spot; $100 for lateness; $75 for "inappropriate dress"; $500 for intoxication; $250 for a no show; $500 for a "walk-out"; $50 for "hanging around in changing rooms for an unacceptable amount of time"; $200 and 50 per cent tax on tips for rudeness to patrons or management; 50 per cent tax on all dancers if there are multiple club complaints; $100 for "no G-string" (all dancers must be completely naked for whole of second song and entire duration of tip round); and $50 for misuse of cell phone.
Giving out phone numbers to customers or going home with them incurs a $2500 fine and a reward of $500 is given to dancers who tell the club of another dancer breaking this rule.
Calendar Girls told the ERA that it is well-known industry practice for exotic dancers to be treated as independent contractors.
Former long-time company director Jacqui LeProu, who has been involved in the adult entertainment industry for 27 years, gave evidence that she has never heard of an exotic dancer being an employee.
"She says that, although Calendar Girls does not operate as a brothel (although it is registered as one), there are some similarities as Calendar Girls technically provides sexual services (due to the ability of customers to touch the nude dancers) and that prostitutes also always operate as independent contractors," says ERA member Appleton's determination, seen by the Herald, which rejects the dancers' personal grievances.
It can be a lucrative business for successful operators, with top dancers able to earn up to $5000 per week.
Former dancer Lisa Lewis told the Herald earlier this year that depriving a stripper of money is the only way to ensure they will follow club rules.
The ERA said that while the strip club's fining system would be "highly-problematic and highly-unusual" in an employment relationship, it is "indicative" of an independent contractor relationship.
"On standing back, it is striking that the dancers will earn nothing if they are not favoured by a customer with a tip or a sale. The dancers have to decide what kind of look and performance are likely to earn them the most money," the determination says.
The ERA concluded that while the dancers did not consider themselves "businesspeople", the real nature of the relationship is one of independent contractors.
Costs are reserved.
Calendar Girls declined to comment when contacted by the Herald today.
Rules for strippers
• Personal hygiene and make-up should be immaculate at all times
• Lingerie should match, clothes should imply sexiness and sensuality
• While on stage the dancers are required to wear costumes, two-piece outfits or lingerie
• The dancing order is displayed on a whiteboard in the dressing room
• After spending time on the stages, the dancers are required to head out to the crowd to collect tips
• Dancers must have their top off by the end of the first song and their G-string off by the end of the second song
• Tips must be collected in the nude
• Dancers are required to end their lap dances fully nude
• It is prohibited for dancers to give their phone numbers to customers or go home with them
• Dancers are prohibited from working at any other strip club or agency
• Drinking is permitted but drunkenness and the use of drugs are not
• Dancers are forbidden to discuss their income and are responsible for their own tax
• Dancers are forbidden to enter into any form of sexual or romantic relationship with any of the staff