BY: Jason J. Thompson | IN: Employment Law
Dozens of minor league baseball players hit a home run when it was announced their minimum wage claims against Major League Baseball will likely move forward collectively as a class action lawsuit.
In their lawsuit, minor league players claim the MLB has systematically paid them less than minimum wage in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act. The players also assert they were not paid overtime compensation, and were sometimes not paid at all for work they were required to do.
The case, Senne et al. v. Office of the Commissioner of Baseball et al., was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. It names as defendants former MLB Commissioner Bud Selig, the Office of the Commissioner of Baseball, the MLB and each of its ball clubs.
Currently, the case is made up of 43 plaintiffs from several different states. They argue their claims should be heard together because their contracts are the same across the league and they all basically have the same complaints.
But the defendants have fought class certification, alleging players have not shown that the MLB treats them all the same way. The overtime pay claims should be decided on a player-by-player basis, according to the defendants, because each ball club pays its own players using different payroll systems.
According to Law 360 (subscription required), U.S. Magistrate Judge Joseph Spero has said he will likely certify the case as a class action because the players have so many issues in common. The judge also predicted the case will be challenging for both sides, particularly because players all sign the same contract, yet are controlled by the individual clubs.
In addition to the wage and hour suit, the MLB is currently facing a potential antitrust class action accusing it of limiting minor league players’ pay with restrictive contract provisions. The MLB has attempted to merge that case with the FLSA suit, but so far the courts have not granted the request.
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Jason Thompson is a nationally board certified trial attorney and co-chairs Sommers Schwartz’s Complex Litigation Department. He has a formidable breadth of litigation experience, including class action and multidistrict litigation (MDL), and practices nationwide in both state and federal courts.