Ruling In Minor League Suit Goes In MLB’s Favor

On Thursday night, Major League Baseball had a ruling go in its favor in a potential class-action lawsuit filed by former minor leaguers seeking increased wages.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Joseph Spero of the U.S. District Court in San Francisco denied class certification for the players in the suit—which is officially filed as Senne vs. the Office of the Commissioner of Baseball. The ruling means the players cannot file a class-action lawsuit. Spero ruled that a class-action suit would be unmanageable.

“Class members can demonstrate minimum wage and overtime violations only by demonstrating that their rate of pay fell below the minimum wage rate and that they worked the requisite hours to be entitled to overtime pay, both of which will turn on the number of hours of compensable work they performed and the amount of compensation they received for that work,” Spero said. “The court concludes that the individualized issues that will arise in connection with adjudicating these questions will be extensive and will make class-wide treatment of plaintiffs’ claims virtually impossible.”

Spero found the players’ cases were different enough from one another that they couldn’t be treated as a collective. MLB had filed a motion seeking to prevent class certification because, “the Plaintiffs are not similarly situated.” In essence, because some players train in Arizona while others train in Florida, and each plays in different set of states, their claims would vary too widely to be considered uniform.

Moreover, MLB used the players’ recent decision to not seek pay for their time in fall instructional league or the Arizona Fall League as a cudgel to prove that the group cannot agree on their own definition of work. Therefore, their situations do not meet the standards for a collective-action suit.

The players, however, believe their claims are deserving of class-action status because “MLB and its franchises have implemented uniform contracts and policies and major league rules ‘to ensure similar conditions of employment’ and the legal issues ‘can be distilled to a few common issues.'”

As a result of the lack of the uniformity from one situation to the next, the court denied the players’ motion to join as a class-action lawsuit. It also granted MLB’s motion to decertify the Fair Labor Standards Act Collective and its request to exclude the testimony from J. Michael Dennis, PhD, and Brian Kriegler, PhD, in support of the players.

The next step, as outlined in the document’s conclusion, is for each side to meet and submit a joint case management statement by Aug. 5. A case management conference will then be hold on Aug. 19.

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