For the second time this season, the San Francisco Giants are under investigation for possible wage violations pertaining to low level team employees. This according to Myron Levin and Stuart Silverstein of FairWarning.org, who collectively report the Giants along with the Miami Marlins are under investigation from the U.S. Department of Labor for improper use of unpaid interns.
Earlier in the season, it was discovered the Giants were paying clubhouse workers less than minimum wage, which resulted in a settlement in August. Apparently the pay issues didn't end there, as the Labor Department decided to take a deeper look at not only the Giants, but the other 29 teams as well. That led to the current investigation centering around San Francisco and Miami, and has prompted a meeting with labor officials that representatives from all 30 teams are required to attend next month in Orlando.
The meeting was scheduled after the agency urged the commissioner’s office to take action on what an email described as the “catalog of issues” raised by the Giants case. The issues included improperly exempting certain employees from overtime pay, and paying daily rates that might fall short of the minimum wage depending on the number of hours worked.
Another issue was unpaid interns. This “was not part of the completed investigation” of the Giants, an email said, “but…has subsequently been raised.”
Unpaid internships, which are especially prevalent in industries such as entertainment, media and professional sports, have generated growing controversy and some successful private litigation. According to Labor Department guidelines, unpaid internships are proper only when designed for the education of the interns, and not to benefit the employer or displace regular workers.
The Giants and Major League Baseball have yet to comment on the latest investigation, but a Marlins spokesman says the club doesn't believe any of the their current labor practices are improper, adding "We can confirm that the Marlins have been and will continue to cooperate fully with the Department of Labor.”
That's nice of them, but we'll see what the Labor Department has to say about that.
It'll be interesting to see how the investigation plays out, too, and even if it expands beyond the Giants and Marlins in the coming weeks. That sounds like a distinct possibility based on the information learned this week, but the bottom line is changes are going to be made in terms of how interns and other low level employees are viewed, treated and compensated around.
Unfortunately, in some cases, it may even lead to those low level opportunities being eliminated if teams aren't willing to add the expense. You'd hate to see it come to that, but the law is the law, and at last check the law is still pretty close to undefeated.
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