Paid in Singles for a Shot at the Big Leagues: Former Minor Leaguers Sue MLB for Wage-and-Hour Violations

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Spring training is just around the corner and major leaguers have already reported to their first workout. Meanwhile, an interesting development–three former minor leaguers have filed a lawsuit against Major League Baseball, Bud Selig, and three MLB teams, claiming that the MLB has failed to pay overtime and minimum wages in violation of the FLSA and various state labor laws. According to the plaintiffs, the MLB “has a long, infamous history of labor exploitation dating to its inception” by hoarding players, depressing salaries, and preventing unionization of the minor leagues. See Complaint, Senne v. MLB, No. 3:14-cv-00608-JCS (N.D. Cal. Feb. 7, 2014), ECF No. 1. The case is presently before Magistrate Judge Joseph C. Spero.

As evidence that the MLB is “artificially and illegally depressing minor league wages,” Plaintiffs, represented by Korein Tillery, LLC and Pearson, Simon & Warshaw, LLP, allege that defendants have paid salary below minimum wage, failing to pay overtime wages, and conspiring to pay no wages at all. Plaintiffs allege that minor leaguers’ salaries have increased only 75 percent since 1976, compared to an increase of more than 2,000 percent in the major leagues. Plaintiffs also claim that most minor leaguers earn between $3,000 and $7,500 for the season, despite working over 50—and sometimes more than 70—hours per week, including workouts and extensive travel time. The former minor leaguers state they receive no wages at all during training periods.

The former minor leaguers seek to form a collective action under the FLSA and certify classes under Rules 23(a) and 23(b)(3) for violations of state labor laws. Plaintiffs claim defendants are liable under the FLSA for engaging in a policy and/or practice of failing to pay plaintiffs and all similarly-situated minor leaguers the applicable minimum wage and overtime and for violating the recordkeeping requirements required by the FLSA.

Additionally, plaintiffs claim that the MLB has violated California minimum wage and overtime laws and failed to conform to California’s payday requirements under the California Labor Code. Plaintiffs also seek to certify a California sub-class for waiting time penalties. Plaintiffs claim defendants have also engaged in unfair and unlawful business practices in violation of California Business and Professions Code sections 17200 et seq. and seek relief under the common law theory of quantum meruit. Plaintiffs allege similar violations under Florida, Arizona, North Carolina, and New York labor laws.

For now, we will have to wait for the court to decide whether other minor leaguers will be entering this draft.