Photo via CBS Sports
Following the most prolific labor dispute Major League Baseball (MLB) has seen in over 25 years, there seems to be more trouble on the horizon for the league. This time it regards the Minor League players and their wages. In a wage violation litigation dating back to 2014 a federal district court ruled on a summary judgment motion that a class of Arizona-based minor league baseball players are year-round, joint employees of MLB and its clubs. The certified classes of this dispute fall under the state laws of Arizona, Florida, and California, as well as a collective action under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).
The Minor League players will have their opportunity to tell a jury about their grueling working hours and low wages in a class and collective action against MLB in a June trial. The players’ FLSA claims were previously thwarted by the America’s Pastime Act which took effect in 2018, amending the FLSA to exempt baseball players from its minimum wage and overtime requirements. In the most recent ruling, Magistrate Judge Joseph C. Spero found that MLB violated Arizona minimum wage laws as well as California wage statement law. In this upcoming trial, the main questions will be quantifying how many under-compensated hours players worked, as well as the resulting damages.
A preview brief that is publicly available sheds light on the arguments the players will raise at trial. First and foremost, players work long hours during the work periods at issue without compensation. The starting point for this evidence will come from minor league players, supervisors, coaches and other personnel regarding work routines. The brief also states MLB failed to keep record of hours worked by particular players. Since it was already found MLB is liable for minimum wage claims in Arizona and California, damages are left for the jury, along with whether MLB is liable for overtime claims by FLSA and California class, Florida minimum wage claims, and if MLB is protected against Florida and FLSA claims by an overtime exemption for “amusement or recreational establishments.” These are all issues foreign to ordinary people who are not passionate about baseball and not well-versed in labor law, and subsequently will be challenging for a jury to determine.
Minor league players across the country are on the edge of their seats awaiting the June trial. The fate of thousands of minor league players’ wages is at stake, and while MLB successfully worked through one labor dispute, they find themselves in the center of another.