A stripper who was shot when a fight broke out in the South Carolina club where she was working has been denied Worker’s Compensation benefits by the South Carolina Court of Appeals.
19 year old LeAndra Lewis was hit by gunfire while dancing in the Boom Boom Room at Studio 54 in 2008. Admittedly, gunfire is likely not the type of “boom boom” one would expect in a “Boom Boom Room”, but the irony is not lost on me.
The case ended up against the South Carolina Uninsured Employers’ Fund since the club apparently did not have insurance. At the core of the argument was the Fund's assertion that Lewis was an independent contractor. Lewis testified that she would normally make $250-$350 per night, dancing 5-6 nights a week. A court filing estimated her annual income to be approximately $82,500.
Her attorney argued that the club’s managers had control over her when she entered the building, so she should have been considered an employee. Furthermore, Lewis testified that she was told when to dance, what music to dance to, and to pay a “tip out” fee each night. They also argued that, since the club furnished equipment such as a stage, poles to assist dancers, and private rooms for V.I.P. dances, that she and the club had a direct employment relationship.
I love that part about having poles to “assist” dancers. Nice to know they were ADA compliant.
But that is not all. According to Lewis, “The club provided the dancers with cleaning solution, towels, and a basket for collecting money while on stage, and the club provided the dancers with lockers for their belongings.”
It is comforting to know that by providing cleaning solution and towels that they kept things clean and sanitary in the Boom Boom Room.
There was no mention of a broom for the Boom Boom Room I assume.
Evidence at trial also showed that the club did not pay Lewis any money to work that night. Her only income was from gratuities for her performances in the Boom Boom Room. Testimony from others at the trial showed that she, like many exotic dancers, were able to work at a number of clubs, choosing which one they would perform at on any given evening.
Ultimately the court determined that since Lewis was not invited to dance at the Boom Boom Room that night and could have left whenever she pleased, they could not rule this employment relationship. The court also indicated that because the club did not tell Lewis how to dance, it did not have complete control over her.
The court ruled in a majority opinion that Lewis was an independent contractor and therefore not entitled to benefits under the Workers’ Compensation Act.
There should be no doubt that this young woman was severely injured by this gunfire. She testified before the court that “extensive scarring” from the incident prevent her from working again in her chosen profession. Surgeons removed one kidney, and she may never be able to have children due to the injuries to her uterus. We would hope that she has some legal recourse towards the parties involved in the shooting.
Something certainly went tragically wrong that June night in 2008. The actions of idiots severely injured a young woman, and brought sudden gloom and doom to the Boom Boom room.