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The Boston Globe

Business

Suit says strip club flouts wage law, cheats dancers

A former exotic dancer at the Squire Lounge in Revere has filed a lawsuit against the strip club and its operators for allegedly failing to pay the minimum wage, forcing dancers to share tips with management, misclassifying them as independent contractors, and intimidating strippers after they complained about working conditions.

The lawsuit seeks class-action status. Filed in Suffolk Superior Court by Ashley Denisevich, 28, of Malden, it claims she and other women have suffered substantial “compensatory damages totaling millions of dollars.” Dancers are required to pay $50 to $100 in “house fees” per shift, hand over $25 in “late fees” if they are tardy, and give up 10 percent of their hourly earnings in the VIP room when customers use credit cards instead of cash, the suit says.

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Denisevich, who worked at the Squire from February 2011 to April of this year, alleges dancers are misclassified as independent contractors and deprived of wages, paid vacations and sick time, health insurance, unemployment benefits, and other protections while the Squire reaps enormous profits.

D&B Corp. in Peabody, which operates the Squire Lounge, and Mark Filtranti, D&B’s president, are named as defendants, along with the club. Filtranti did not return calls seeking comment. Another man who said that he was one of the Squire’s owners but would identify himself only as “Rob” declined to comment.

After complaining about working conditions at the club, Denisevich said in court records, bouncers and managers attempted to intimidate her and other dancers, “including threats of ‘blackballing’ them from employment at other strip clubs.”

David Dishman, an attorney representing Denisevich, said she was fired after asking to consult with a lawyer and now works at an establishment that complies with wage laws. He estimated that between 100 and 150 dancers would be potential class members for the case.

This lawsuit comes several years after another group of strippers successfully sued King Arthur’s Lounge in Chelsea for illegally classifying them as independent contractors.

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“What is striking is that most adult entertainment venues revamped their employment practices with respect to exotic dancers after the King Arthur’s decision in 2009, but three years later the Squire has not,” Dishman said.

Since then, judges have ruled against at least five strip clubs, including Centerfolds Worcester, King’s Inn in North Dartmouth, and the Golden Banana in Peabody, for misclassifying dancers.

A number of these cases have resulted in settlements that range from hundreds of thousands of dollars to more than $1 million, said Shannon Liss-Riordan, one of the attorneys who represented dancers in the King Arthur’s suit and others.

A Hampden Superior Court judge in Springfield is scheduled to hear arguments Friday in a lawsuit filed against Mardi Gras Entertainment, a chain that operates five strip clubs in Western Massachusetts. The court is being asked to determine if dancers have been misclassified and whether the case should be given class-action status.

Jenn Abelson can be reached at abelson@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @jennabelson.

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