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Minor League Players Sue MLB Over Wages

By Aditi Mukherji, JD | Last updated on

Three minor league baseball players filed a lawsuit against Major League Baseball, alleging the League violated state and federal labor laws.

The suit also names Commissioner Bud Selig and three teams: the Miami Marlins, Kansas City Royals, and San Francisco Giants.

Aaron Senne, Michael Liberto and Oliver Odle are alleging a spate of labor law violations and are seeking class-action status, which could raise the stakes to a whole new playing field.

FLSA Violations

The suit claims the major leagues and their teams violated the Fair Labor Standards Act and state laws by "paying salaries below minimum wage, by not paying overtime wages, and by often paying no wages, at all," the San Francisco Chronicle reports.

Generally speaking, the FLSA requires that employees receive at least the minimum wage as well as overtime pay of one-and-a-half times the regular pay rate when working in excess of 40 hours per week.

According to the suit, most minor league players earn between $3,000 and $7,500 for a five-month season, despite working more than 50 hours per week. They claim they are not paid at all for spring training, offseason instructional leagues, or the year-round conditioning work that teams require.

If the numbers are true, many minor league players earn less than the federal poverty level, which is $11,490 for a single person and $23,550 for a family of four. In stark contrast, the minimum salary in Major League Baseball (MLB) is $500,000.

Defenses to Overcome

To hit a homerun in their legal claims, the players will need to overcome a few potential defenses.

First, they will likely need to overcome a contract-based argument that the players knew what they were getting into, agreed to terms of their employment, and signed on the dotted line.

In addition, the players will need to prove that they are entitled to overtime pay. Under the FLSA, "professional employees" are usually exempt from FLSA wage and overtime benefits and that classification includes those who perform original or unique work -- a description potentially befitting of minor league players.

Seeking Class-Action Status

The former players are seeking class-action certification on behalf of thousands of current and former minor-leaguers, dating back at least three years, and damages and civil penalties against MLB and its franchises.

If successful in obtaining class-action status, this lawsuit could ripple into a larger wage and hour scandal.

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