EXPO 2018 Legal Panel: sexual harassment
Harvey Weinstein, the “#MeToo” movement, sexual harassment and your club
August 22, noon - 1:15 pm
If it’s not one thing, it’s another. For nearly as long as there has been an adult nightclub industry, ambitious politicians, religious zealots and parasitic plaintiffs’ attorneys have been coming after adult nightclub operators.
The attorneys have attempted to profit through lawsuits claiming dancers have been miscategorized as non-employees. The politicians and zealots have scored points with constituents by attempting to regulate the clubs out of profitability or completely out of business.
And now, with the skyrocketing prevalence of sexual assault and harassment assertions – especially in the workplace, forcing countless resignations and terminations in the entertainment industry, government and throughout the business world, it’s no surprise that adult nightclubs, whose very existence is dependent on presenting sexual fantasy, are extremely vulnerable to such claims.
What can we do? How do we “make the mood,” for sexual fantasy for customers while maintaining businesslike relationships between club owners and managers and club workers and entertainers and avoid harassment and discrimination claims against clubs and club operators?
That is the extremely timely topic of the 2018 Gentlemen’s Club Expo Legal Panel. ED and EXPO are very pleased to present three excellent panelists, each with considerable experience “in the trenches,” working with these issues. New this year: The legal panel will feature video tutorials of “real-life” sexual harassment situations that the panelists will utilize to put their advice on this vital topic into a real-world context.
Edi Thomas, an attorney from Detroit, now practicing in California, has handled sexual harassment and discrimination cases for more years than she cares to admit. Thomas has represented the adult nightclub industry in dancer and employee cases since the early 1990’s, representing among others, the Déjà Vu club chain. Thomas specializes in “entertainer as employee” cases and nightclub discrimination and harassment cases, and has taken sexual harassment cases to trial. Thomas has a national practice, which includes providing sexual harassment training to club managers. She has for many years “manned” a 1-800 “hot line” for adult nightclub performers and employees who believe they’ve been harassed or discriminated against, taking calls and working to resolve complaints before they fester into multi-million dollar cases. Thomas is a well-known, long-time advocate for the industry, as well as an advocate for the safe and respectful treatment of entertainers.
Micheal Ocello is President of International Entertainment Consultants, Inc. (IEC), which operates the PT’s family of clubs in eight states. He has been continuously involved in the adult nightclub industry for over 32 years; all with IEC. Ocello is the past president of the ACE National trade association, of which he is currently an executive board member. He is co-founder of Club Operators Against Sex Trafficking (COAST), current President of the Illinois Club Owners Association and a board member of the ACE of California state association.
Ocello was appointed to the Missouri Small Business Regulatory Fairness Board and served for over five years in the State Capital in that capacity.
Ocello is federally certified by the US Equal Opportunity Commission (EEOC) as both an EEO (Equal Employment Opportunity) Investigator and an EEO Counselor. Through the credibility Ocello has earned with the EEOC, IEC’s clubs are currently the only adult business entities in the United States to be granted a Universal Mediation Agreement with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. He has paved the way for other adult clubs to be eligible for such mediation agreements.
Brad Shafer has planned and been a moderator and participant of several Expo legal panels, and has also contributed frequently to ED Magazine. For over 30 years, Shafer’s firm has exclusively represented gentlemen’s clubs and has been involved in all facets of defending such businesses. Shafer has been significantly involved in labor law matters, and is generally considered to be the most experienced attorney in the country on legal disputes concerning whether exotic dance entertainers are employees or “independent contractors.” The types of claims that Mr. Shafer regularly handles in this regard, both administrative and legal, include state and federal wage matters, unemployment compensation, worker’s compensation, and both state and federal tax issues.
Shafer has handled the defense of a large variety of harassment and discrimination claims both involving club employees and entertainers. His firm has provided the defense to such claims both in court and in front of the EEOC and state administrative agencies. Shafer’s firm provides managerial and employee training on these topics. He’s been involved with COAST (Club Owners Against Sex Trafficking) and its actions to try to bring some clarity to this industry concerning EEOC compliance; and has have acted as a legal “bypass” for the reporting and investigation of harassment and discrimination claims. Shafer is a founding advisory attorney for the ACE of Michigan and ACE National trade associations.
Karen Gay is a club owner (Deja Vu, Saginaw, MI), who is also a former entertainer, waitress, bartender and club manager. Her vast club experience has given her a unique perspective on the potential for sexual harassment in adult nightclubs, and she will bring this expertise to the legal panel at Expo.
Panel moderator, Larry Kaplan, is a broker in the sale of adult nightclubs and the President of Kaplan Club Sales. He is also the Executive Director of ACE of Michigan (and was previously the Executive Director of ACE of California). Kaplan is also the ED Magazine's legal correspondent, and has worked within the adult nightclub industry for over two decades.
The “Avoiding Sexual Harassment Claims Against You and Your Club” Legal Panel is scheduled for the EXPO at noon to 1:15 p.m. on Wednesday, August 22.
- story by Larry Kaplan
Does these videos portray "sexual harassment" that could put you in legal jeopardy?
How would YOU handle this situation?
Get the answers to this question and many more at the EXPO 2018 Legal Panel!