Professional Baseball Teams Settle Wage and Hour Lawsuits: How Bad Is Baseball’s Labor Problem?

On this blog, we’ve spilled a lot of virtual ink about wage and hour cases in the New York restaurant industry. In particular, we frequently report on cases concerning the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and New York Labor Laws (NYLL).

But wage and hour problems are not the sole province of the New York restaurant industry. In fact, unfortunately, workers across the U.S. get short shrifted in a wide variety of industries.

Case in point: the U.S. Department of Labor has been investigating two professional baseball clubs — the San Francisco Giants and the Florida Marlins — for federal wage law violations. The charges against these two teams may just be the tip of the iceberg. According to a Labor Department memo dated September 12, 2013, dicey payment practices may be “endemic to [the professional baseball] industry.” In August, the San Francisco Giants settled a class action that provided nearly $550,000 in damages and back wages to 74 workers who worked in the clubhouse and in video operations.

According to San Francisco Wage and Hour Division officials, the Giants paid many workers $55 a day but worked them so many hours that their average pay rate dipped below the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour. In addition, these workers did not receive overtime pay.

Back in June 2013, the Giants settled a separate private class action brought by security guards — also for $500,000 in damages. In that case, the team failed to give guards overtime and also compelled them to work during meals and break times. Baseball clubs, like the Giants, also face potential legal problems for creating unpaid internships. Labor Department guidelines say that if unpaid internships are allowed only if they’re created to educate interns and not to displace wage workers. Major League Baseball does not control how clubs like the Giants handle their employment practices but the Wage and Hour Division does work closely with MLB’s Commissioner to ensure that clubs comply with wage and hour rules.

The wage and hour shenanigans are apparently not limited to the Major League clubs. Some evidence suggests that Minor League clubhouse workers face similar issues.

Whether you’re a professional baseball player, stockbroker, lawyer, or restaurant worker, you deserve fair pay and fair treatment for your hard work. If you believe your employer mistreated you or underpaid you, please connect with Joseph & Kirschenbaum today at (212) 688-5640 for a free consultation, or email us at info@jhllp.com.