A group of minor league players suing Major League Baseball over alleged illegally low wages secured an important victory in court Friday.
MLB had sought to prevent a 2014 lawsuit brought by minor league baseball players seeking minimum wage and overtime pay from proceeding as a class action, but the Ninth Circuit court in San Francisco has denied the league’s request.
The minor leaguers suing MLB over wages took another step forward today, when a federal appeals court declined another MLB request that the suit not be heard as a class action. The case itself has not gone to trial, but class action greatly increases potential MLB liability.
— Bill Shaikin (@BillShaikin) January 3, 2020
According to the San Francisco Chronicle, it’s the second major ruling to go in favor of the players. On Aug. 16, 2019, a three-judge panel ruled that the 2014 lawsuit originally brought by 45 minor league baseball players against MLB, then-MLB Commissioner Bud Selig, and a number of MLB franchises, could proceed as a class action.
The August ruling also allowed minor league players in California, Arizona and Florida to participate, which is significant considering that all 30 teams hold spring training in either Arizona or Florida. The lawsuit, which alleges that baseball’s owners have not complied with labor laws, could expand to include thousands of players who participated in spring training from 2014 to 2019.
Players are given housing and some meals during spring training, but like major-leaguers, do not start drawing checks until they play during the regular season.
The lawsuit seeks unspecified back pay for what attorney Garrett Broshuis believes could be more than 10,000 players, plus a ruling directing that teams start paying them no less than the minimum wage.
"We're pleased that the court of appeals again recognized that the case should proceed as a class action," Broshius told the Chronicle via email. "For far too long, MLB and its teams have uniformly ignored state and federal wage-and-hour laws. As 2020 begins, we hope to soon be back at the trial court to further prosecute our case."
As noted by Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times, a trial has not yet been set. However, Friday’s ruling is seen as a major step toward that ultimately happening.
The Chronicle report says MLB still has opportunities to file motions with the trial judge in San Francisco, but may ultimately be forced to seek an appeal with the U.S. Supreme Court to avoid a trial.
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