Human Resources News & Insights

Even sports teams have to deal with the FLSA

Two recent lawsuits highlight wage-and-hour issues in an industry not typically associated with the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA): professional sports. 

Play ball?

In the first case, three minor league baseball players have initiated a class action lawsuit against Major League Baseball (MLB).

The players claim that MLB has violated the FLSA by refusing to pay players minimum wage or overtime.

A typical workweek for a minor league baseball player, according to the case, is 60 to 70 hours. Yet the players only make between $3,000 and $7,500 over the five-month season — far below minimum wage and the poverty line, say the players.

Attorney Michael McCann noted that Major League Baseball will likely try to defend itself by saying that minor league players are exempt from wage and OT benefits, possibly citing the players as “professional employees” under the FLSA, which covers workers who perform unique or original work.

MLB’s reasoning isn’t without precedent. As Eric B. Meyer notes on The Employer Handbook Blog, the 11th Circuit determined that a minor league baseball team doesn’t meet the FLSA’s seasonality test. Neither did the major league club the Cincinnati Reds, according to the Sixth Circuit.

We’ll let you know how the case “plays” out.

Read the full complaint here.

They were fined for bringing the wrong pom-poms

In the second case, a cheerleader has filed a wage-and-hour class action suit on behalf of 40 “Raiderette” cheerleaders against the Oakland Raiders football team.

In the suit, Lacy T. claims that the team failed to pay the cheerleaders minimum wage.

According to the San Francisco Chronicle, the cheerleaders are paid $1,250 for a season of 10 games. Lacy T. claims that, counting the hours of unpaid work at rehearsals, charity events and a swimsuit calendar photo session, that amounts to less than $5 an hour — under California’s minimum wage requirement.

Lacy T. also claims that the team:

  • made the cheerleaders pay for travel costs, cosmetics and other items
  • fined them for bringing the wrong pom-poms to practice
  • refused to pay them until the end of the season (instead of paying them twice a month), and
  • required them to sign contracts saying they wouldn’t discuss their pay with each other.

The Department of Labor has launched an investigation into the team’s treatment of the cheerleaders.

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