The South Carolina Supreme Court ruled on Wednesday that a topless dancer who was shot on the job is entitled to workers’ compensation benefits.
On July 23, 2008, a fight erupted in the Boom Boom Room on Two Notch Road. LeAndra Lewis was struck by a stray bullet during the altercation. The dancer sustained “severe damage to her internal organs and resulted in the loss of a kidney,” wrote the Supreme Court. Lewis also sustained permanent scarring from the injury and subsequent surgery.
The Boom Boom Room denied Lewis’ claim as did lower courts, pointing to the fact that she was considered an independent contractor and, therefore, not entitled to employer coverage. The Supreme Court reversed these decisions. It is thought that this will bolster efforts within the state to classify these workers as employees.
The case is an interesting one as states across the nation are pushing to label workers as independent contractors rather than employees in order to save on benefits and taxes. Laws in all states, and at the federal level, are very clear as to what defines an employee. In this case specifically, the Supreme Court’s decision states that Lewis was indeed an employee because:
- She was told when to arrive for work.
- Her music was chosen for her.
- She was required to perform “VIP” dances.
- It was specified that she perform topless.
- She could not leave work early without monetary penalty.
- She was prohibited from removing more clothing than her top.
In a similar lawsuit, dancers at the Platinum Plus clubs in Greenville and Columbia complain that the club controls their work activities but does not pay them an hourly wage. The suit is asking for back wages in a potential multi-million dollar settlement.
The dancing industry is not the only focus of attention. Last summer, an investigation conducted by McClatchy newspapers found that close to 38% of construction companies hire independent contractors rather than employees to save on insurance costs and taxes. The investigation found that local and state housing authorities received $30 million in stimulus money from the federal government for projects in which workers were considered independent contractors.
As these cases move forward, the blurred line between independent contractor and employee in South Carolina and other states may become clearer.
If you need assistance filing a workers’ compensation claim, or if you need help fighting for compensation after a claim has been denied, please contact our office. We have attorneys who are ready to help you today. Call now for a free consultation.