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Exotic dancer suffers workplace injuries, appeals ruling

When an individual is injured while on the job, one of the first steps toward determining if workers' compensation is available is evaluating whether the worker can be considered an employee. In many cases, classification as an employee is simple. However, there are a wide range of occupations in California and elsewhere in which a worker a grey area exists over whether a worker is an employee or an independent contractor. An example is found in the case of a woman who received workplace injuries after a gun was fired in the gentleman's club where she worked as a performer.

The dancer was working at an establishment known as the "Boom Boom Room Studio 54" in 2008 when a fight broke out. A weapon was fired, and the dancer was struck in the abdomen; she was rushed to a hospital for injuries to her liver, intestines, uterus and pancreas. One of her kidneys had to be removed based on the damage done by the bullet. She filed for workers' compensation benefits, but the Workers' Compensation Commission ruled that she was an independent contractor, and therefore not entitled to benefits. The Court of Appeals upheld that decision.

The dancer took the matter before the state's Supreme Court, which disagreed. The higher court found that the woman was acting as an employee. The reasons for that designation included the fact that the woman was required to review the club's rule sheet before each shift, was instructed on exactly what degree of nudity was expected and could be fined if she left before finishing any given shift. Also, the dancer was required to pay a tip-out fee each shift, and was required to undergo a search prior to beginning work.

The workplace injuries that this woman sustained were very serious, and she is likely relieved to have this matter finally settled, even if the recent ruling came more than seven years after the incident took place. The case serves as an illustration of the difficulty that certain workers have when seeking workers' compensation benefits, in California or elsewhere. It is also indicative of the need to take a strong legal stance in such matters from the outset.

Source: businessinsurance.com, "Exotic dancer shot by stray bullet eligible for workers comp", Stephanie Goldberg, March 19, 2015

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