I have worked for an adult dance company (cabaret, burlesque, etc) for the last few years, and outside of a select handful of shows, I have never been paid for any of the work I have done. The owner keeps 100% of all profits and tips that dancers collect, and we are not allowed to see how much was collected (the audience is requested to place tips in provided envelopes and seal them). I would estimate I have averaged at least 15-20+ hours a week working for the troupe over the last 6 years in a variety of roles. Members are expected to pay monthly dues, dance exclusively with the group, and perform on a full time basis (multiple rehearsals and shows every week at different venues). This is not a dance studio and has over 30 dancers, none of whom get paid either. Is something like this even legal?
What you describe sounds more like a club activity than a job. If you kept doing it without pay for six years, it will be hard to convince anyone that you expected to be paid for your work.
This answer is a general discussion of legal principles by a California lawyer. It does not create an attorney-client relationship. Free initial consultation applies only to individuals with current or potential criminal charges in Butte County, California and adjoining counties.
That industry is rife with employment law violations as the owners continually try to find ways to avoid a finding of any sort of employment. They usually lose.
It would be a very wise move for you to locate and consult directly and confidentially with an experienced employment law attorney who can learn all of the details of this practice. You may well be entitled to substantial wages and penalties.
I would suggest you look either on this site in the Find a Lawyer section, or go to www.cela.org, the home page for the California Employment Lawyers Association, an organization whose members are dedicated to the representation of employees against their employers.
Most employment attorneys who practice this area of law work offer a free or low cost consultation in the beginning and then, if the matter has merit and value, will usually agree to work on a contingency basis, meaning you can hire an attorney without paying any money until the matter results in a positive outcome for you. Many advance all the costs of the litigation as well. Do not let fear of fees and costs keep you from finding a good attorney.
Good luck to you.
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An attorney can file a lawsuit over unpaid wages, or you can file a complaint with the Labor Commissioner. https://www.dir.ca.gov/dlse/HowToReportViolationtoBOFE.htm
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The issue of misclassification of exotic dancers as independent contractors is a persistent problem in the industry. So persistent, that I once had to turn down a good case involving an exotic dancer because at least 5 of her colleagues had filed the same class action for the same causes of action (so she was already effectively being represented by five different lawsuits). And that was before the California Supreme Court's decision in Dynamex Operations West v. Superior Court. Contact an employment attorney ASAP, and discuss the matter with them. There's a lot to discuss.
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