Thursday, August 11, 2022

MLB to pay $185 million to settle federal class-action lawsuit filed by minor-league players, per report

Major League Baseball has agreed to pay $185 million in a settlement to end a federal class-action lawsuit filed by minor-league players who were seeking compensation for minimum-wage and overtime violations, according to ESPN’s Jeff Passan. The settlement is pending a judge’s approval.

Passan adds that the settlement will stipulate that MLB issues a memo to teams allowing them to pay minor-league players during spring training, extended spring training and instructional league play. Teams had not been permitted to pay players during those periods.

The lawsuit was filed by Aaron Senne and 42 other minor-league players in 2014 on the basis of the belief that MLB had violated the Fair Labor Standards Act. As a website for the lawsuit notes, the players made the following contentions about which state wage and hour laws MLB violated: 

  • minimum wage, overtime and other remedies available under California law on behalf of the California Class;

  • minimum wage under Arizona law on behalf of the Arizona Class; and

  • minimum wage under Florida law on behalf of the Florida Class.

The Athletic’s Evan Drellich originally reported that the two sides had reached a settlement in May. Terms were not revealed at that time, however, and the plaintiffs had requested until July 11 to “file motion for preliminary approval of settlement.”

The players’ counsel issued the following statement at the time: “We are pleased to report that the parties have reached a settlement in principle in this over 8-year-old case, subject to court approval. We look forward to filing preliminary approval papers with the court and cannot comment further until then.”

Back in February, Drellich reported on the argument made by an attorney representing MLB — and noted that the league had suggested that the minor-league players, though unpaid during those periods, were receiving more than $2,000 a week in value per week based on what amateurs pay for training.

“It is the players that obtain the greater benefit from the training opportunities that they are afforded than the clubs, who actually just incur the cost of having to provide that training,” said Elise Bloom of Proskauer Rose, per Drellich. “During the training season, the players are not employees, and would not be subject to either the Fair Labor Standards Act or any state minimum wage act.”

The Supreme Court denied MLB’s request to dismiss the lawsuit in October 2020.

In response to today’s news, Advocates for Minor Leaguers’ director Harry Marino issued the following statement:

Marino has been asked to provide insight on the impact MLB’s anti-trust exemption has on minor leaguers by the United States Senate Judiciary Committee, suggesting MLB might not be done addressing its treatment of minor-league players in legal settings.

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