Three exotic-dancing sisters from Schenectady are suing the adult club Shenanigan’s and a related business, alleging they illegally stripped away their pay.
The three plaintiffs — Michaella, Deja and Elizabeth Clayton — also allege race played a factor in discrimination against them.
The women, who according to their attorney are ages 18 to 26, charge in the federal lawsuit filed recently that they were not paid minimum wage or given proper tax records by the Colonie club, had tips wrongfully taken from them and were forced to work unpaid overtime — at times in part to make up for onerous and arbitrary “fines” levied by their employer.
“They are all violations of labor law,” their attorney, Thomas E. DeLorenzo of Schenectady, said Tuesday. “Some other people were subject to the same discrimination.
“They cheated a lot of the girls,” the attorney continued. “You just can’t treat people this way.”
Stephen G. DeNigris of Albany, the attorney representing the club, not only denied the charges but said “we might seek sanctions against [the plaintiffs] when we are successful.”
“We consider the complaint to be frivolous,” he said. “It doesn’t have any merit to it. We are going to defend it aggressively.”
According to court papers, unlike white female workers the three African American sisters were not issued W-2s, 1099 tax forms or pay stubs, despite requests.
“They treated them differently because of their race,” DeLorenzo said.
The lawsuit lists Shenanigan’s, manager Luigi Canessa, Lewis Cross, Sheer Pleasure Lingerie, Inc. and owner Robert J. Savoca as defendants.
The lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Albany last week also alleges Shenanigan’s and Sheer Pleasures Lingerie instituted a stiff fine and fee schedule that would be deducted from tips. If not deducted, the performers were not allowed to returned to work, or had to work overtime to pay it off. According to the lawsuit, the alleged fines included:
$75 to $150 for being late to work;
$20 to $50 for dancing too close to customers;
$100 to $500 for missing work without a doctor’s note;
$50 to $100 for having a cellphone out.
The plaintiffs also claim that they would perform private dances for $1,000 to $7,000, but would be given $500 or less. There are also allegations of sexual harassment and intimidation by staff.
One of the sisters was fired in January 2013 for calling police after Shenanigan’s’ bouncers allegedly beat a patron, the lawsuit states. The second was fired less than a month later after audio recording a dispute about the fine deductions being excessive, according to the court papers. The third was fired in April 2013, according to the filing, after their attorney sent a letter in an attempt to resolve the pay dispute.
The lawsuit claims the businesses violated the Civil Rights Act, Fair Labor Standards, New York Labor Law, the Minimum Wage Act and the Equal Pay Act.
Efforts at arbitration failed, DeLorenzo said. The lawsuit is seeking lost wages, lawyers’ fees and punitive damages.
Through their attorney the sisters declined comment.