May I rent your stage?

To hear Quansa Thompson talk of her life as an exotic dancer, to listen to her describe how men offer cash as she sashays, gyrates and jiggles the night away, is to evoke a thousand titillating thoughts, not a single one having anything to do with the Federal Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938.

That is, until Thompson brings up the Depression-era law, which she discovered last summer after being fired by her then-employer, the House, a den of prurient entertainment on Georgia Avenue NW. Thompson is suing the House in U.S. District Court, alleging that the club pays dancers no wages, but ought to under the law. The club has denied the charge.

That’s how this article by Paul Schwartzman for The Washington Post begins.

This issue has spread like wildfire in the industry. It’s a legitimate claim. But, given the unique arrangements that nude-dance performers often hold with their clubs (one in which the dancer often makes leaps and bounds beyond what FLSA requires), it’s not always a practical claim — that is, unless you’re fired.

As my mentor used to say when he’d find a counterintuitive legal outcome, “it’s a barnacle on the hull of the law.”

**Update: A class action of this variety was just conditionally certified in my backyard.

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