Stripper shot while dancing in club denied Worker's Compensation

Published: Sep. 5, 2012 at 6:47 PM EDT|Updated: Mar. 19, 2015 at 4:09 PM EDT
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RICHLAND COUNTY, SC (WIS) - An exotic dancer who was shot when a fight broke out in a Two Notch Road strip club in 2008 has been denied Worker's Compensation benefits by the South Carolina Court of Appeals.

LeAndra Lewis was hit by stray gunfire while dancing at the Boom Boom Room Studio 54 on June 23, 2008. She was 19 and living in Charlotte at the time.

She suffered serious injuries to her intestines, liver, pancreas, kidney, and uterus. Surgeons removed one kidney, and doctors informed her she may never be able to have children due to the injuries to her uterus.

According to her testimony, extensive scarring from the gunshot wound left her unemployable as an exotic dancer.

Lewis, who frequently danced at clubs in North and South Carolina, filed a claim for benefits with the workers' compensation commission. Because the club had no insurance, the South Carolina Uninsured Employers' Fund was forced to defend.

During testimony, Lewis said she typically made $250-$350 per night and she danced 5-6 nights a week. A court filing estimated her total yearly income to be approximately $82,500.

Both the single commissioner and the appellate panel denied Lewis's claim based on the finding that she was not an employee of the club.

Her appeal then went directly to the Court of Appeals.

Her counsel argued that because the club's managers controlled her when she entered the building she should have been considered an employee of the business. Lewis said she was told when to dance, what music to dance to, and to pay a "tip out" fee each night.

She also argued that she and the club has an employment relationship because the club furnished equipment such as a stage, poles to assist dancers, and private rooms for V.I.P. dances.

"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," said Lewis.

One of Lewis' witness testified that exotic dancers travel from club to club depending on what rappers or actors are there.

The fact that Lewis was not invited to dance at the Boom Boom Room that night and could have left whenever she pleased, according to the court, weighed heavily against finding an employment relationship.

Evidence also showed that the club did not pay Lewis any money to work that night. The only money she made was strictly in the form of cash tips from customers.

The court also was of the opinion that because the club did not tell Lewis how to dance, it did not have complete control over her.

In a majority opinion, the court ruled that Lewis was an independent contractor and therefore not entitled to benefits under the Workers' Compensation Act.

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