Clothed in the power of the law, the federal government is again suing a Mississippi strip club, saying black strippers should be treated equally when they take it all off.
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed a fresh lawsuit Friday against Danny's Downtown Cabaret, saying the Jackson club is still discriminating against black dancers four years after the government filed a similar lawsuit. The government also wants the club held in contempt for violating a settlement of the earlier suit.
Owner Daniel "Dax" Owens wrote in an email that he's not aware of the filings. He didn't respond to a request for further comment. A lawyer in the earlier suit withdrew in April, citing "irreconcilable differences" with Owens.
The new suit alleges club managers require African-American strippers to work exclusively at the nearby Black Diamonds club, owned by the same man, or pay $100 per shift to work at Danny's. Black Diamonds bills itself as the "Nation's No. 1 Urban Strip Club," with locations also in Dallas and Houston.
The six strippers represented by the EEOC say they liked working at Black Diamonds less, "where patrons were allowed to grope the entertainers, where patrons were permitted to use illicit drugs and smoke cigarettes, and where there was initially no air conditioning." The suit represents that none of those things was a problem at Danny's.
The suit alleges the club fired dancer Ashley Williams in July 2013 after she refused to pay the "discriminatory fee." Five other unnamed dancers are also represented. The lawsuit seeks compensation and punitive damages for all the women, as well as back pay for Williams and changes to prevent future problems.
Danny's agreed to settle an earlier suit alleging discrimination against black strippers, but the EEOC says the club has "totally failed" to comply with requirements to update its policies, train managers, keep records of complaints and post a nondiscrimination notice. The government's contempt motion seeks sanctions and attorney's fees.
The 2012 lawsuit said that Danny's forced black dancers to work less lucrative shifts than whites, making them compete for spots on a "black shift." That suit also claimed Danny's subjected African-American dancers to arbitrary fees and fines and excluded them from advertisements promoting the company.
Owens filed for personal bankruptcy Sept. 16, after a Black Diamonds patron won a $61,500 judgment against him. The patron claimed that club bouncers fractured his ankle in an unjustified beating in 2014. The patron moved to seize Black Diamonds and auction it, causing a brief closure before Owens filed for bankruptcy and the club reopened. Local media reported Danny's and Black Diamonds also closed briefly in July because of another unpaid judgment stemming from a lawsuit over injuries received from security guards.