A federal judge this week gave preliminary approval to a $1.2 million settlement between a Key West strip club owner and scores of strippers who sued over lost wages.
U.S. District Court Judge Jose Martinez also set a final hearing for Oct. 3 in Key West before ordering the payout from Red Garter Saloon owner Mark Rossi to about 122 dancers who worked at the Duval Street club between Nov. 1, 2010, and Feb. 29, 2016.
The judge’s approval is the first step in the settlement process and allows the attorneys to give notice to members of the class who might choose to opt out or object to the agreement.
“The settlement agreement is the result of extensive, arms-length negotiations by counsel well-versed in the prosecution of wage and hour and class and collective actions,” Martinez wrote in a ruling issued Monday.
Attorneys for the strippers plan to advertise the settlement in the Miami Herald, a $15,000 cost Rossi agreed to pick up.
Checks might range from $150 for a stripper who worked there for one month up to $9,450 for one who worked there for a little over five years.
The $1.2 million settlement would end a lawsuit filed Dec. 4, 2015, in Key West by lead plaintiff Christina Demaria-Dominguez, and 11 other women.
Their attorneys, the Atherton Law Group of West Palm Beach and Chad Evan Levy of Fort Lauderdale, have also sued the other two strip clubs in Key West — Bare Assets and Teasers — and the lone Upper Keys club, Woody’s in Islamorada.
Rossi, a former Key West city commissioner who owns the Red Garter and a cluster of bars in the 200 block of Duval St., is also facing a second labor lawsuit from 2015 by strippers unrelated to the one he agreed to settle March 31.
The $1.2 million payout doesn’t mean Rossi admits to wrongdoing, although the lawsuits accuse him and other Keys club owners of violating federal labor laws and Florida's minimum wage law by treating strippers as employees while refusing to pay them.
Strippers not only rely on tips but they are also charged a house fee in order to take the stage.
Dancers in the lawsuits say they also had to tip the doormen, the D.J., the bartenders and others.