Bare Necessities

The Bill of Rights are the first ten amendments to the U.S. Constitution, which add specific guarantees of personal freedoms and rights, clear limitations on the government’s power in judicial and other proceedings, and reserves all powers not specifically granted to the federal government to the states or the people.

In essence, the Bill of Rights embody the rights of U.S. citizens and express limitations on the government’s powers. For this reason, the phrase “Bill of Rights” has been used in other contexts to explain the rights of individuals and the limitations of power for an institution.

For example, many health care providers have a patients’ bill of rights. Many occupants of long-term care facilities are given a residents’ bill of rights upon admission. Many employers provide their workers with an employees’ bill of rights.

The State of Washington’s Senate Bill 6105, which was signed into law last month by Governor Jay Inslee, is the latest legislation to use the moniker. Dubbed the “Strippers’ Bill of Rights,” the measure includes the most comprehensive statewide protections in the nation for adult dancers.

“It’s pretty simple why we are passing this bill. These are working folks – and working people deserve safety in the environment in which they work,” Inslee said during a press conference. In addition to creating safer working conditions for people in the adult entertainment industry, the bill also makes it possible for strip clubs to sell alcohol.

The new law focuses on the physical safety of dancers by requiring training for employees in establishments to prevent sexual harassment, identify and report human trafficking, de-escalate conflict and provide first aid. It also mandates security workers on site, keypad codes to enter dressing rooms and panic buttons in private rooms where entertainers are alone with customers.

The act also provides financial protection. Many exotic dancers are independent contractors who are paid by customers, and must pay fees to clubs to go on stage. The new rules limit the fees owners can charge, capping them at $150 or 30% of the amount dancers make during their shift. The law also prohibits late fees and other charges related to unpaid balances.

“Strippers are workers, and they should be given the same rights and protections as any other labor force,” bill sponsor Senator Rebecca Saldaña of Seattle, said in a statement. “If they are employed at a legal establishment in Washington, they deserve the safeguards that every worker is entitled to, including protection from exploitation, trafficking, and abuse,” she explained. “It is crucial that we confront the stigma surrounding adult entertainment and recognize the humanity of those involved in the industry.”

While Washington has the most comprehensive protections for adult dancers, it is not the first state to introduce them. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, in 2019, Illinois was the first, by requiring that adult entertainment establishments, along with other businesses, have a written sexual harassment policy.

Both legislative chambers in Florida have approved a measure that would prevent individuals under age 21 from working at adult establishments. The bill awaits signature from Governor Ron DeSantis. In addition, dancers in cities across the U.S. have voted to unionize to negotiate for workplace protections. In 2014, the Nevada Supreme Court held that adult dancers at one Las Vegas club are employees, not independent contractors, and, therefore, were entitled to minimum wage and other protections.

In college, I worked as a janitor for the school district. One of my main jobs was taking the wax off the classroom floors and resealing them. So, I was very excited when I heard about the Strippers’ Bill of Rights, but it is not what I expected.

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Reg P. Wydeven

Elder Law and Estate Planning Attorney at McCarty Law LLP
Hoping to follow in his father’s footsteps from a young age, Reg’s practice primarily consists of advising individuals on estate planning, estate settlement and elder law matters. As Reg represents clients in matters like guardianship proceedings and long-term care admissions, he feels grateful to be able to offer families thorough legal help in their time of need.

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