Pro Baseball Player Class Certified in Bid for Wages

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By Jon Steingart

Major League Baseball faces a lawsuit that may become more expensive to resolve following certification May 2 of a class of minor league players who allege they aren’t paid fully for all the hours they work off the field ( Senne v. Office of the Comm’r of Baseball , N.D. Cal., No. 3:14-cv-00608, class certified 5/2/17 ).

The players aren’t fully compensated for hours spent traveling to away games, making public appearances and training in the off-season, they say. Factoring in the hours they work but aren’t compensated means they’re sometimes deprived of minimum hourly wage and overtime for hours worked beyond 40 in a week, according to the lawsuit, which was filed in a federal court in California.

The minor league players say they earn $3,000 to $7,500 per year even though they work as much as 70 hours per week at the height of the five-month season.

MLB and the players agreed to a subclass that includes anyone who played on a team in the California League of Professional Baseball, a Class A level league, since 2010. From 2010 to 2016, there were 10 teams in the league, which dropped to eight this year when two teams ended operations after the prior season. Judge Joseph C. Spero of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California in July 2016 rejected the players’ bid to certify a nationwide class that would include all 160 minor league teams.

Class certification can mean Major League Baseball would have to pay more to settle or if the players win a court judgment. Players who fit class definition automatically become plaintiffs unless they take steps to exclude themselves.

In response to the lawsuit, members of Congress introduced a bill in 2016 that would exempt minor league baseball players from the minimum wage and overtime requirements of the Fair Labor Standards Act. The Save America’s Pastime Act died without receiving a hearing and hasn’t been reintroduced in the current Congress.

Bruce Simon, Daniel Warshaw, Bobby Pouya and Benjamin Shiftan with Pearson, Simon & Warshaw LLP in San Francisco and Stephen Tillery, George Zelcs, Aaron Zigler and Garrett Broshuis with Korein Tillery LLC in St. Louis represent the players.

Proskauer Rose LLP attorneys Elise Bloom, Howard Ganz, Neil Abramson and Adam Lupion in New York City and Enzo Der Boghossian in New York City represent Major League Baseball.

To contact the reporter on this story: Jon Steingart in Washington at jsteingart@bna.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Peggy Aulino at maulino@bna.com; Terence Hyland at thyland@bna.com; Christopher Opfer at copfer@bna.com

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