A Homerun for Minor League Baseball Players: Conditional Class Certification Granted

Bill Weil , November 3, 2015

A Homerun for Minor League Baseball Players: Conditional Class Certification Granted

In a suit brought against Major League Baseball (MLB) by a group of former minor league players, a California federal court has granted a conditional class certification. The group of former players alleges they were not paid the requisite minimum wage in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). As a result, the ruling allows both current and former minor league players the opportunity to join the lawsuit and potentially recover minimum wage and overtime payments.
The California court, under U.S. Magistrate Judge Joseph Spero, granted the players motion to certify a class of all minor league players who worked for the MLB or any MLB franchise since February 7, 2011, and who, at the time, had not spent time in the major leagues. The lawsuit alleges the MLB franchises paid the players less than minimum wage, denied overtime pay, and required the players to train without pay during the off-season.
Along with the alleged FLSA violations, the players assert the MLB violated similar state wage and hour laws in eight states. Specifically, the MLB violated the laws by paying the players only $3,000 to $7,000 during the five-month season, while the players worked 50 hours to 70 hours per week.
The recent California court decision is just the most recent victory for the former minor league players. In July, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California denied a motion by MLB franchises to dismiss the lawsuit. Instead, the court allowed the case to proceed to pre-trial discovery in order to determine if class certification was appropriate and whether the proposed class representatives have standing to represent the proposed classes. In opposition to the minor league players, the MLB argued the class should not be certified since minor league players are required to perform different tasks in the off-season as they are required during the season.

The minor league players’ compensation falls below the minimum wage as a result of the long hours they work during the season, and the fact that all current minor league players are bound by the same standard contract, which demands they work for a fixed salary despite the actual number of hours worked. The Court determined conditional certification was justified in this claim because the players’ allegations that they were subject to a uniform policy resulting in a failure to meet minimum wage requirements of the FLSA were significant.
Just weeks before this decision, U.S. District Judge Haywood S. Gilliam of California dismissed a separate lawsuit brought by minor league players against Commissioner Bud Selig and the MLB alleging federal antitrust laws were violated by Bud Selig and MLB in conspiring to restrict minor league players’ salaries.
Source: Gregg E. Clifton, Minor League Players Granted Conditional Class Certification in Wage Suit (October 29, 2015), See more at: http://www.natlawreview.com/article/minor-league-players-granted-conditional-class-certification-wage-suit.

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