A group of former minor league baseball players alleging they were not paid the minimum wage in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act has been granted conditional class certification in a suit brought in California federal court against Major League Baseball teams. Now, both current and former minor league players will have the opportunity to participate in the lawsuit and potentially recover minimum wage and overtime compensation.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Joseph Spero, in San Francisco, on October 20 granted the former minor league players’ motion to certify a class of all minor league players who worked for the MLB or any MLB franchise since February 7, 2011, but had not spent time in the major leagues at the time.

The former players allege the franchises have been paying them less than minimum wage, denying them overtime pay, and requiring them to train during off-season without any pay.

They also contend the MLB and its clubs violated the FLSA, as well as similar state wage and hour laws in eight states, by paying them a total of only $3,000 to $7,000 over a five-month season despite their working from 50 hours to 70 hours each week.

This is the latest victory for this group of former players. In July, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California denied a motion by MLB franchises to dismiss the suit and allowed the case to proceed to pre-trial discovery “to determine whether certification is appropriate and whether the proposed class representatives have standing to represent the various proposed classes.” Senne v. Kansas City Royals Baseball Corp., No. 3:14-cv-00608 (N.D. Cal. July 13, 2015). See the Jackson Lewis Collegiate and Professional Sports Blog post on this decision: https://www.collegeandprosportslaw.com/professional-baseball/minor-league-baseball-players-minimum-wage-overtime-claims-proceed-to-class-certification-stage/.

Judge Spero rejected Major League Baseball’s argument that the class should not be certified because minor league players are required to perform different tasks during the season versus the off-season:

In particular, all [current minor leaguers] are bound by the [same standard player contract], which requires players to work for a fixed salary regardless of the number of hours worked, resulting in compensation that falls below the minimum wage because of the long hours they are required to work during the championship season. The Court finds that Plaintiffs’ allegations that they are subject to a uniform policy that results in failure to meet the minimum wage requirements of the FLSA are substantial . . . Therefore, conditional certification is warranted as to this claim.

The victory comes weeks after California’s U.S. District Judge Haywood S. Gilliam dismissed a separate suit brought by minor league players against MLB and Commissioner Bud Selig alleging that both parties violated federal antitrust law by conspiring to restrict the salaries of minor league players. See the Jackson Lewis Collegiate and Professional Sports Blog post on this case, Miranda et al. v. Office of the Commissioner of Baseball et al., No. 14-cv-05349 (N.D. Cal. Sept. 14, 2015): https://www.collegeandprosportslaw.com/uncategorized/minor-league-players-strike-out-in-effort-to-bring-antitrust-class-action-against-major-league-baseball/

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Photo of Gregg E. Clifton Gregg E. Clifton

Gregg E. Clifton is a Principal in the Phoenix, Arizona, office of Jackson Lewis P.C. He is Co-Leader of the Collegiate and Professional Sports Practice Group and serves as the editor of the firm’s sports law blog.

Mr. Clifton has extensive experience in…

Gregg E. Clifton is a Principal in the Phoenix, Arizona, office of Jackson Lewis P.C. He is Co-Leader of the Collegiate and Professional Sports Practice Group and serves as the editor of the firm’s sports law blog.

Mr. Clifton has extensive experience in the collegiate and professional sports world. He has advised numerous professional franchises on general labor and employment issues, including Title III ADA regulatory compliance and wage and hour issues. He serves as lead counsel for several Major League Baseball teams in their salary arbitration matters and has represented NCAA and NAIA collegiate clients regarding rules compliance, investigatory matters and in disciplinary hearings. In addition, he has handled Title IX investigations and compliance issues for NCAA and NAIA member institutions. Mr. Clifton has also worked extensively in the area of agent regulation and enforcement in professional and college sports and regularly provides counsel on issues relating to NCAA and NAIA amateurism issues and athlete eligibility questions. He has also served as an expert witness in matters involving sports agents’ work and responsibilities, as well as athlete compensation issues.

Prior to joining Jackson Lewis, he spent six years as Chief Operating Officer and Vice President of Team Sports for Gaylord Sports Management. He also served as President of the Athlete and Entertainment Division for famed sports attorney Bob Woolf’s firm, Woolf Associates, in Boston.

Mr. Clifton began his career as an Associate at Jackson Lewis where he focused his practice on traditional labor law. He continues to counsel clients in the areas of collective bargaining negotiations, representation cases, arbitrations and National Labor Relations Board matters.

Mr. Clifton frequently serves as an expert speaker to law schools, including Harvard University, Boston College, Hofstra University and Arizona State University, and bar associations regarding sports law issues, including agent regulation and salary arbitration. He is also often cited as an expert source in national news media for his commentary and opinion on legal issues in sports.