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Mississippi Strippers Who Alleged Racial Discrimination, Inferior Working Conditions Win $3.3M Judgment

A jury has awarded five Black Mississippi strippers over $3 million after a federal judge determined they worked under worse conditions than their white co-workers.

The May 15 decision, which was reported by the Associated Press, requires that $3.3 million be split among the Black workers of Danny’s Downtown Cabaret. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which filed the suit on behalf of the workers, stated the verdict included $1.5 million in punitive damages, $1.68 million in compensatory damages, and $130,550 in back pay.

Bill Walter, the attorney for the Jackson, Mississippi, strip club, said he will request that U.S. District Judge Henry T. Wingate, who presided over the trial, reduces the award. If that request is denied, Walter plans to appeal.

“Obviously, the client is disappointed in the verdict,” Walter said to the AP.

The lawsuit, which was filed in September 2016, states that beginning in June 2013, Danny’s and its predecessor, Baby O’s, engaged in activities that constitute unlawful employment against Ashley Williams, who is a former employee, and four other Black dancers.

The filing states that the five women were forced to work in “adverse and disparate terms and conditions of employment, which the Defendants did not impose on similarly situated white entertainers.”

In one example, Black performers were restricted in when they could work and faced $25 fines if they did not show up for their shift. By contrast, the filing claimed white dancers had flexible schedules and if they missed work, they were not fined. Additionally, the Black dancers were pushed to work strictly at the related strip club Black Diamonds or pay $100 to work at Danny’s.

Among other allegations in the suit, are Black dancers allegedly being subjected to racial slurs and the allowance of groping on Black dancers when that was not the case for white ones. Patrons at Black Diamonds were also “permitted to use illicit drugs and smoke cigarettes” Plus, the suit claims there was no working air conditioning. Meanwhile, at Danny’s the suit stated drug use and smoking were prohibited and there was “always working air conditioning.”

Williams was fired in July 2013 when she refused to pay the $100 to work at Danny’s, the filing also alleged.

“This case shows the EEOC will sue any employer, operating any type of business, who violates federal anti-discrimination laws, especially those who will not stop discriminating even after being given repeated chances to do so,” said Marsha Rucker, the EEOC’s regional attorney based in Birmingham, Alabama, in a statement Thursday. “The EEOC will protect employees in any industry who are subjected to such blatant and repeated discrimination. The jury yesterday sent a powerful message to Danny’s and any employer who thinks they are above the law.”

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