William & Mary Journal of Race, Gender, and Social Justice


My study explores a small but revealing corner of the share economy, where an individual’s private resources are bartered for limited use by others in exchange for compensation. Strip clubs create value for owners by commoditizing sexual labor. Clubs avoid employment in favor of independent contracting with dancers. They pay no wages or benefits; patrons pay dancers with fees and tips. But clubs extract entry fees from dancers who work; require them to rent dressing rooms and stage time; and compel them to share tips with DJs, emcees, house moms, bouncers, and bartenders. My research identified seventy-five federal and state court rulings on wage claims by exotic dancers. In thirty-eight cases, courts ruled that dancers were employees; only three courts ruled that dancers were independent contractors. Courts often awarded dancers minimum wages, overtime, and liquidated damages. My research relates more generally to labor in the share economy. Strip clubs epitomize a trend away from wage based employment in favor of independent contractor agreements for a transient and rootless workforce. The share economy model for work takes advantage of the poor bargaining power of individuals, while failing to pay workers minimum wages, overtime under federal and state law, employment taxes, and mandated employment benefits.