En EspaƱol Know Your Rights
Source: Times Ledger
Subject: Workplace Justice
Type: Media Coverage

Bar Dancers Sue Jackson Heights Club

The
Jackson Heights club owners being sued for
alleged mistreatment and unfair payment practices by a group of women who
charged $2 a dance and bar workers also own a home in Bayside, city records
show.

Suffolk County residents Luis Ruiz and Edith D’Angelo, owners of the
Flamingo Club at 85-12 Jackson
Ave., did not pay the dancers any wages, paid
other workers less than the minimum wage and failed to pay overtime, the
plaintiffs allege.

Ruiz and D’Angelo currently
live in a home in Dix Hills, L.I., records show. They also own a $670,000 home
in Bayside currently being renovated, according to city Department of Buildings
records.

According to state Liquor Authority records, Ruiz and D’Angelo also own Julie’s
Bar and Restaurant in Long Island
City.

The dancers, known as "bailarinas," are women who take tips to dance
with men on the dance floor. The practice is common in bars and clubs
frequented by immigrants underneath the elevated No. 7 train tracks on Roosevelt Avenue.

The dancers and bar workers are seeking back wages, a matching amount for
damages and payment of legal fees, according to court papers filed in Brooklyn
federal court last Thursday.

Peter Rubin, attorney for Ruiz and D’Angelo, did not return phone calls from
the TimesLedger.

Elizabeth
Wagoner
, an attorney with Make the Road New York Inc., a Brooklyn-based immigrant advocacy group that
helped the dancers and employees file the suit, said the catalyst was "the
sense that their rights at work had been violated in really shocking ways,
beyond anything they had ever really experienced."

The dancers claim the only money they made was the tips from the men they
danced with at a price of $2 per song or $40 per hour, court documents show.

They were also required to dance during a nightly set of songs – when they were
not allowed to accept tips – called "women’s liberation time" by the
owners, the suit claims.

The dancers also allege D’Angelo and Ruiz tracked the time each dancer spent in
the dressing room and restroom and required them to pay a fee of $11 to enter
the club at the start of each shift.

Mandatory, unpaid meetings were held for two hours after the dancers’ 12-hour
shifts, the dancers claimed.

The dancers were also required to acquire special costumes for theme nights
like cowgirl, schoolgirl, nurse, police, formal, pajama, Arab and miniskirt
nights, the suit claims.

They claim Ruiz occasionally spilled champagne on them while they worked,
soaking their clothing, and sometimes shoved them toward customers, encouraging
them to dance.

The case’s next court date is on hold while the plaintiffs wait for the
defendants to answer the suit, Wagoner
said.