“There was boxes back there”: How a flood and a healthy dose of incompetence sank a strip club’s plan to force a dancer into arbitration

Independent contractor

Nope. Not that Godfather.

Forgive me in advance if I sound condescending. And skeptical. And incredulous. But above all, I am amused.

This is the story of a strip club called the Godfather. When one of its dancers, a young lassie named Tassy, tried to sue, alleging that she had been misclassified as an independent contractor, the Godfather asked the court to send her claims to arbitration, as required under the Godfather’s dancer agreement.

But the Godfather had one small problem. It could not produce the agreement because, it claimed, the agreement was washed out in a flood caused by a rusted-out water heater in the back room. As everyone knows, the flood-prone back room with the rusted-out water heater is the best place for storing corporate legal documents. (Note to self: update template document retention guidelines.) Preferably, as the Godfather did, store them in unmarked boxes with no index or system for determining exactly what was in the boxes. But Tassy’s agreement was in there. They’re pretty sure, anyway.

So the court held an evidentiary hearing, and that’s when the rest of the wheels fell off. The Godfather produced two key witnesses, and they contradicted each other in virtually every aspect of their testimony — about the content of the agreements, the procedure for signing agreements, the procedure for signing other new dancer paperwork, the procedure for being retained, the procedure for auditioning, what other documents had been lost in the flood, who worked in the back office, who was the most talented Jonas Brother, and what were the real lyrics to Wild Thing by the Troggs.

The only things the witnesses could agree on were that there were different versions of the agreement in place at different times, that the versions “constantly changed,” that some versions had an arbitration clause and others did not, and that neither of them was sure which version Tassy signed.

The judge, in a written opinion, excoriated the club, finding none of its witnesses to be credible and expressing a general bewilderment at the supposed back room filing system, which was meticulously described by the Godfather’s key witness as follows: “There was boxes of paperwork back there.” That is an exact quote from the opinion.

The court ruled that the Godfather failed to prove that Tassy had signed an arbitration agreement. She will therefore be allowed to proceed with her claims of independent contractor misclassification in court.

I hope this one goes to trial because it would be hilarious.

© 2019 Todd Lebowitz, posted on WhoIsMyEmployee.com, Exploring Issues of Independent Contractor Misclassification and Joint Employment. All rights reserved.

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