Key West stripper headed to trial against former commissioner

More than a year after the same club struck a $1.2 million settlement with dancers who claimed unfair labor practices, another stripper has a trial date in federal court over the same claim.

Monica Ann Woodbury, who formerly stripped in a Duval Street club, opted out of the class-action settlement and wants her day in court, which this month was set for Sept. 10, 2018, before U.S. District Court Senior Judge James Lawrence King in Key West.

Woodbury says dancers at the Red Garter Saloon were paid less than minimum wage and forced to share their tips with other employees at the club who normally don’t receive tips.

In April 2016, Mark Rossi, a former Key West city commissioner, agreed to pay up to $1.2 million to settle a class-action lawsuit with dancers who went after him for not paying minimum wage or overtime to women he treated as employees although they worked for tips only.

Strippers are deemed independent contractors at the local clubs. But the first such lawsuit argued the Red Garter Saloon’s practices treated the women as employees — setting schedules, telling them what they could wear and how they could perform — but without the legal requirement of a minimum wage or overtime.

Woodbury, who worked for Rossi from January 2011 to September 2015, has the same argument. She says she received no compensation from the club.

At the Garter, like most strip clubs, strippers may be the main attraction but they actually paid the club to perform on stage — a house fee set higher for prime times — and tipped out the bartender, DJ and doormen.

Rossi, whose Keys Productions company owns the Red Garter, 208 Duval St., admitted no wrongdoing in the settlement, which includes a list of legal defenses, including that dancers made more money as contractors than they would have as employees.

Still, the strippers in the class-action settlement, led by Christina Demaria-Dominguez and 10 other named plaintiffs, said the club violated the federal Fair Labor Standards Act and Florida’s minimum wage law.

Demonstrations involving fast-food, airport and hospital employees, among others, were organized in cities including New York, Detroit and Los Angeles.

Gwen Filosa: @KeyWestGwen