The Flamingo is one of many night clubs in this neighborhood
where men, mostly Latino immigrants, pay $2 a song to dance with a woman, whose
outfits depend on the night’s theme: Bikini Night, Schoolgirl Night and Pajama
But several former dancers say this club is different.
They claim the owners Edith D’Angelo and her husband Luis
Ruiz, treated them virtually like slaves. Besides not being paid (beyond the $2
a dance), they had to pay $11 a night to work there and cough up as much as $70
if they called in sick, they said.
The dancers, as well as some bartenders and waiters, are
expected to file a federal lawsuit today, alleging Flamingo’s owners violated
wage laws and cheated them out of at least $500,000 in wages.
Diana Trejos, of Elmhurst,
thought the job would help her support her two daughters, mother and niece. But
between the fines, costly outfits and "constant surveillance," she said through
a translator, "it’s just not worth it." She was fired in February, after the
owners claimed she overcharged a customer. She denies it.
These clubs say dancers are independent contractors, and
therefore owners don’t have to pay wages.
"The employer in this case had total control over all
aspects of [the dancers’] lives, such as whether they could take breaks, what
kind of makeup to wear," said Elizabeth Wagoner,** the workers’ lawyer.
Flamingo’s owners were unavailable for comment, but Luis
Quinones, a waiter who answered the phone there, said the dancers were "fired
for robbery" and wanted to destroy the business.
The owners installed surveillance cameras in the dancers’
dressing rooms, made them sign-in to use the bathroom and barred them from
taking breaks during shifts that lasted six to 12 hours, according to the
**Of Make the Road New