When you think of minor league baseball, you may draw on movies like Bull Durham or The Rookie; long bus trips from stadium to stadium where teams play in front of small crowds for small pay.
Well, apparently, the pay may be small enough to trigger a violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act
As pitchers and catchers being to report for Spring Training, Craig Calcaterra at NBC Sports HardBall Talk reports here that three minor league baseball players have initiated a putative class action in federal court against Major League Baseball, among others. In the Complaint (copy here), the plaintiffs allege violations of the FLSA stemming from the failure to pay minimum wage and overtime for working more than 40 hours per week.
Over at CNNSI, Attorney Michael McCann, discusses the case here and notes that the defendants are not without defenses:
Baseball will argue that professional athletes are not entitled to overtime pay. The life of a professional athlete commands atypical hours and an arduous work schedule. Some of this work may also be more in line with a player’s own professional development than his employment. Baseball will surely cite case precedent and Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division materials that support an argument that minor leaguers are exempt from wage and overtime benefits. Baseball might stress that under the FLSA, “professional employees” are usually exempt from FLSA benefits and that classification includes those who perform original or unique work.
Indeed, the FLSA has a seasonality test, which could exempt baseball teams from having to abide by the minimum wage and overtime requirements.
Here is a case in which the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals determined that the Cincinnati Reds did not qualify for the exemption. And here is a case where the Eleventh Circuit determined that a minor league baseball team did meet the exemption.
How this one will turn out is anyone’s guess. But, I’ll keep a close eye on this one for you.