A Look at Washington State’s ‘Strippers’ Bill of Rights’

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Washington State recently enacted a law that includes wide-ranging workplace protections for adult dancers, who have long fought for such measures across the country.

The law, known as the Strippers’ Bill of Rights, was signed by Gov. Jay Inslee on March 25. It includes anti-discrimination provisions and mandatory club employee training.

Supporters of the law say that it includes incentives for establishments to comply, as it carves a path for them to obtain liquor licenses. The state traditionally has prohibited venues that allow sexual performances to sell alcohol.

“It is crucial that we confront the stigma surrounding adult entertainment and recognize the humanity of those involved in the industry,” State Senator Rebecca Saldaña of Seattle, a Democrat who sponsored the legislation, said in a statement.

“Strippers are workers,” she said, “and they should be given the same rights and protections as any other labor force.”

Madison Zack-Wu, the campaign manager for Strippers Are Workers, a dancer-led organization that supported the bill, said in an interview that “the most important part of this policy is that it was created by dancers, for ourselves in our own working conditions.”

Strippers face many risks at work, including sexual harassment, abuse, violence, discrimination and injuries resulting from the physical work of dancing for hours.

Under the new law, club or establishment employees must undergo training aimed at preventing sexual harassment, identifying and reporting human trafficking and learning how to de-escalate conflicts and provide first aid.

The law also requires adult entertainment establishments to have security workers on site and keypad codes for dressing rooms as well as working panic buttons within reach of dancers in private rooms where they are alone with customers. Also, clubs must prove that they are keeping lists of customers who’ve been banned to keep dancers safe.

Additionally, the law eliminates “back rent,” which is debt that accumulates when dancers do not make enough money to pay their customary “stage rental fee,” or house fees, for the night. The law also limits the amount that establishments can charge dancers.

“We believe so deeply in this policy and believe in the changes it will bring and know that they’re absolutely necessary for largely reducing violence and financial scarcity,” Ms. Zack-Wu said.

Beth Ross, a lawyer in California who litigated a 1994 class-action suit against the Mitchell Brothers O’Farrell Theater, then a well-known San Francisco strip club, said that she did see any obvious legal challenges that would invalidate the new law.

However, she emphasized, “Really the question is how will this law be enforced?”

“Is this a really good set of ideas on paper, or is this a law that has teeth that will be of genuine benefit to the women who do this very dangerous legal type of work?” she said.

Ms. Ross said she believed that the law was unlikely to be challenged because of the path it creates for strip clubs to sell alcohol.

“The ability to serve alcohol in these clubs is something that these clubs have wanted forever,” she said.

Adult dancers across the country have long fought for workplace protections, and the new Washington State law is a good step forward, advocates and experts say.

Unionization efforts have ramped up in recent years. In 2023, a group of strippers at a California club called Star Garden unionized after a long fight that led the dancers to picket the club.

Veena Dubal, a law professor at the University of California, Irvine who specializes in labor law, said the new law was “the result of the hard work of organizing done by these workers in a very, very dangerous industry.”

But she cautioned that it was a “halfway point” for the legal protections that sex workers, including strippers, need.

“I’m concerned that it absolutely does not go far enough,” she said. “I think that the workers deserve much more.”


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