MLB Found To Owe Minor League Players Damages For Unpaid Wages
After years of court battles, minor league players have won a court ruling that finds Major League Baseball teams owe them damages for unpaid wages.
In the case of Aaron Senne, et al vs. Kansas City Royals Baseball Corp., et al., the Northern District Court of California ruled Tuesday that MLB is liable for $1,882,650 in penalties on the plaintiffs California wage settlement claim. Senne, a former Marlins minor league outfielder and first baseman, and other minor leaguers have sued MLB for unpaid wages in a case that has wound through the federal court system for years. At one point the plaintiffs lost a ruling on class action status, only to see the case returned to a restrictive class action status on appeal.
In addition to finding MLB liable for penalties on the players California wage settlement claim, the court ruled that MLB is liable for the players claims about teams' record keeping in Arizona, although the exact amount that the players are entitled to is still up for dispute.
In a series of rulings, the court found that minor league players are employees, that MLB is a joint employer of those players and that the plaintiffs (players) did perform work during spring training, extended spring and instructional league. It also ruled that travel time to go to games in both Arizona and Florida is work time—which means it is eligible for compensation—if players had other scheduled activities before getting on the bus, and that travel time for all California League players is work time. MLB argued otherwise in court.
The court also ruled that players are entitled to penalties because teams did not keep proper wage records. The exact number of violations remains in dispute, but the court ruled that defendants are liable for $250 for the first violation and $1,000 for each violation that occurred thereafter. That would appear to indicate a penalty of at least $250 per player who participated in spring training in Arizona any time from the 2011 spring training onward.
There were other issues that remain in dispute and will be brought up in a potential trial, although the two sides could reach a settlement before then. During the summary judgment hearing, Elise M. Bloom, representing MLB clubs, mentioned that there are plans for a pre-trial mediation conference on April 13-14. Garrett Broshuis, a former Giants minor league pitcher and now an attorney, argued on behalf of the players.
The class action status of the case applies to players who played in the California League as well as players who played in spring training, extended spring or instructional league in Florida and Arizona. Since all MLB teams train in Arizona and Florida, that covers thousands of players. The class of affected players includes any player who played in the California League for at least seven consecutive days on or after Feb. 7, 2010 and had not signed a MLB contract before they played in the California League.
It also covers any player who participated in spring training, instructional league or extended spring training in Arizona on or after Feb. 7, 2011 and hadn’t signed an MLB contract before then. Additionally it covers any player who participated in spring training, instructional league or extended spring training in Florida on or after Feb 7, 2009 without signing an MLB contract before then.
“For decades, Minor League players have worked long hours year-round in exchange for poverty-level wages," the steering committee for the organization Advocates for Minor Leaguers said in a statement. "Working as a professional baseball player requires far more than just playing baseball games. It also requires hours of year-round training, practice, and preparation, for which we have never been properly compensated. We are thrilled with today’s ruling, which is an enormous step toward holding MLB accountable for its longstanding mistreatment of Minor League players,”