Feds investigate Club Madonna to determine whether it violated labor laws

02/19/2014 4:13 PM

02/19/2014 4:20 PM

The U.S. Department of Labor is investigating the Miami Beach strip club where police say a 13-year old danced for money.

Four people were arrested in January for pimping the runaway teen, but club management had escaped scrutiny until now.

The Department of Labor is digging into whether anyone working for Club Madonna ran afoul of federal youth employment laws. Officials may also be weighing whether the club’s practice of treating dancers as contractors is legal.

“We’ve met with them a number of times. We’re cooperating,” said club attorney Richard Wolfe.

Wolfe added: “They’ve asked questions about overtime hours and records that we keep.”

Club Madonna, like many strip joints, charges performers a fee to use the club and dance on stage. In return, the dancer gets to keep all her tips. Those in the industry say there has been a rash of lawsuits regarding whether such arrangements are legal, or whether performers should actually be classified as employees.

If the Washington Avenue club is found to be in violation of youth employment laws, the department could levy civil fines of up to $11,000. For violations that are “willful or repeated,” and result in death or injury, the department can assess fines of up to $100,000. Employers who willingly hire minors can also face criminal charges.

“But I think a one-time violation probably does not warrant a fine,” Wolfe said. “We admit she was there. We admit it was a mistake and we’re making sure it never happens again.”

The strip joint is also still fighting the City of Miami Beach, which threatened to shut down the business for what the city says is a failure to pay resort taxes. Wolfe said the law only applies to restaurants, and Club Madonna is not a restaurant.

Miami Beach City Manager Jimmy Morales already ordered the club shut once. Madonna had to close its doors for two weeks in January after Morales yanked the club’s business licenses in the name of public safety. City officials and club management agreed to a series of conditions, such as hiring a chief complaince officer to check dancers’ IDs, in order to reopen.

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