This April, Nadine Quashie from Greenford, West London, a former lap dancer at the Stringfellows nightclub in Covent Garden became the first such worker to win the right to sue for unfair dismissal.
In 2008, Quashie was sacked by the nightclub and accused of dealing in illegal drugs. She contested the accusation. However, in 2010 she was refused permission to bring a case by the Central London Employment Tribunal because she was judged to be self-employed.
Quashie decided to fight on, and went before the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT). Judge Jeremy McMullen QC overturned the previous ruling, finding that the terms under which she worked meant she was legally an employee of the nightclub.
Namely, because of the rules Quashie had to obey and the regular work she was expected to do, the club had imposed contractual obligations on her; even though she was responsible for her own tax and National Insurance.
According to an interview given to the Guardian newspaper, Quashie said she had to work set days and attend meetings arranged at short notice at the club, or she would be fined. Additionally, if she was told to dance for a particular customer she could not refuse and she had to give free pole dances whenever she was named by the DJ.
In turn, Stringfellows’ customers would ‘pay’ the dancers with prepaid vouchers, which the lap dancers had to cash in with the club at the end of their shift. While converting the vouchers into cash, the club would deduct any fines it had imposed, as well as its fees and a percentage of the earnings.
A spokesperson for Stringfellows said that the club would fight the ruling and take the case to the High Court.
Quashie’s solicitor, Shah Qureshi of London firm Bindmans, said: “Dancers in clubs are often exploited due to their lack of employment status, including financial penalties for not working. The door is now open for them to assert their rights and for better regulation within the industry.”
Whether or not this case is successful at the tribunal, it sends a clear message to employers that employee rights are not to be taken lightly.