Stringfellows dancer goes back to tribunal
The epic case of topless dancer Nadine Quashie will be heading back to the employment tribunals after a judge ruled that she had been an employee at the Stringfellows club in London.
Quashie, a former accountancy student, lost her unfair dismissal case at an employment tribunal in late 2010, which found that she was self-employed. She appealed this decision, but this was accompanied by a cross-appeal from Stringfellows alleging that any notional contract was illegal because she had made false claims to HMRC on her tax return and child benefit claim forms.
The case was a cornucopia of issues to tantalise tax and employment specialists - the frisson of late night erotic dancing, expenses wrangles, dubious practices at a West End club and the contractual nuances of employment status. Quashie argued at the original tribunal that dancers were required to give up 25% in commission, with an additional £85 deducted for nightly fees and further fines for non-attendance or lateness.
Her representative John Hendy QC convinced the tribunal appeal judge McMullen that these factors amounted to a contract of employment (Quashie v Stringfellows  UKEAT 0289_11_2604).
The judge ruled that when factors such as control and mutual obligations were considered, Quashie was an employee on the nights she danced at the club: “On each night she attended the claimant was obliged to work as directed by the management.
“If she did not provide the free dances or other duties, she could be fined. I infer from the findings that if the claimant were directed to a customer, she could not refuse. It seems to me that mere attendance on the night is pursuant to a requirement that she work; that is, that she turn up and stay throughout the night shift on pain of fine or deduction. She takes the risk that there will be no remunerative work, but she is willing to accept that on the basis that she is available for it, and indeed she accepts the obligation to do free dances. All of those conclusions point ineluctably towards a finding that on the night the claimant was an employee.”
According to the judgement, Quashie was working under an umbrella contract with Stringfellows that would have given her a year’s continuous employment with the club during 2007-8.
Having set aside the initial tribunal decision, the judge then had to consider the cross-appeal from Stringfellows, which was based on false representations for expenses she made to HMRC while under the impression that she was self-employed.
In his decision on her appeal, Judge McMullen wondered how a person partly trained at university in accounts and law came might come up with such figures and noted that they required more careful analysis.
“It is not for me but for an employment tribunal to determine this matter,” the judge wrote.
So, Quashie’s appeal against the ruling that she was self-employed was successful, and will have a chance to put her claim for unfair dismissal to a new tribunal. But Stringfellows also won its cross-appeal, so the next hearing will proceed on the footing that its representations to HMRC could render the contract illegal in its performance. But it was not illegal at the outset, the judge ruled.
Quashie’s solicitor Shah Qureshi from Bindmans called the judgement a “vindication” for his client that confirmed her engagement had “all the hallmarks of an employment relationship”.
Quashie, who was a women’s rights officer at Thames Valley University before she became a lapdancer, added: “I am delighted with this decision. It confirms my belief that I was an employee entitled to the same basic rights as an employee in any other industry. It has been a long struggle and I look forward to my unfair dismissal claim now proceeding to the Employment Tribunal. I hope this decision helps other dancers. I invite the unions to meet with me to discuss how their resources and support can help workers in our industry.”
A spokeswoman for Stringfellows confirmed that the company fully intended to press ahead with its cross-appeal, but declined to give any further information on the case.
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