Casa Diablo Sued By Ex-Dancers Over Back Pay and Harassment

Two ex-dancers are suing the Portland strip club Casa Diablo for back pay and damages for alleged harassment—including unwanted touching—by patrons and the club's employees.

Matilda Bickers and Amy Pitts, who each performed at Casa Diablo for about two and a half years, filed suit in U.S. District Court on Sunday.

Bickers and Pitts allege Casa Diablo—billed as the city's only vegan strip club—failed to pay them a minimum wage, took a 30 percent cut of their nightly tips, and fined them as much as $40 if they showed up late and $70 for missing a shift. Even their performances could bring penalties—for example, $10 if they didn't undress quickly enough on stage.

The suit also names as defendant Casa Diablo's manager, Johnny Zukle; Zukle's booking company, Devil Dancer LLC; and Casa Diablo's owner of record, Carol Lee.

Zukle tells WW he believes the "harassment was non-existent." 

"As far as this minimum wage claim regarding their misclassification, these dancers were clearly independent contractors in charge of their own business," Zukle says. "This whole lawsuit is frivolous and ridiculous."

Bickers and Pitts, like most dancers in Portland, are treated as independent contractors by their employers. This means that clubs don't have to pay them a minimum wage or overtime. It also means that they don't qualify for sick leave, unemployment benefits, workers' compensation or protections against harassment or retaliation.

There have been recent efforts to challenge this status quo, including dancers in Nevada and New York who have successfully sued over wage theft. In Portland, dancers, social workers and lobbyists are crafting legislation that may clarify employee status for Oregon dancers, entitling them to minimum wage and other workplace protections, as reported by The Daily Beast.

In addition to back wages and lost income, Pitts and Bickers say they're owed damages for enduring mistreatment and harassment from customers and Casa Diablo bouncers. In all, Pitts is seeking $96,318; Bickers, $111,958.

Casa Diablo has faced legal trouble before. In 2012, WW reported the club was under investigation by the U.S. Secret Service for defacing currency. The club had been inking its $2 bills to make the money appear as if it had been dipped in blood.