Magic: The Gathering Judge’s FLSA Claim Is a Critical Miss



They say that if you do something you love, you won’t work a day in your life. Maybe that’s what a Magic: The Gathering tournament judge was thinking when he tried to turn his 20-year hobby into a career—or at least a part-time job. 

The tournament judge recently brought a lawsuit against table-top game manufacturer Wizards of the Coast, LLC—which publishes the fantasy trading-card game--arguing that he and other Magic tournament judges are actually employees of the company, and therefore should receive wages under California and federal law (Yale v. Wizards of the Coast, LLC, No. 5:15-cv-06337-EJD, 2017 BL 296595 (N.D. Cal. Aug. 23, 2017)).  Wizards of the Coast responded by saying that tournament judges are just “enthusiasts” of the game who volunteer to judge.

They’re All Certifiable

The Magic judge largely focused his argument on the fact that Wizards of the Coast requires judges to complete and maintain certification, saying that this amounted to the company’s power to permit or prevent judges from working. He also argued that the certification process was to the benefit of the company because the judges helped increase participation in Magic games.

Just a Game, After All

However, those allegations alone aren’t enough to show that the judge was an employee, as far as the law is concerned. The complaint left out key factors that the court uses to make such a determination, like whether there was a hiring process, how many hours the judge was required to work at games, and whether he ever expected any compensation beyond the Magic playing cards he received on occasion.

Not all hope is lost for the judge, though – the court gave him another chance to provide the missing details on his claim. Will he get to move forward? Maybe it’s in the cards.

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