Ex-USC player sues NCAA and Pac-12 alleging violation of employment laws

Nick Bromberg
Dr. Saturday
Lamar Dawson had 137 career tackles in his time at USC (Getty).
Lamar Dawson had 137 career tackles in his time at USC (Getty).

Former Southern Cal player Lamar Dawson has filed a class-action lawsuit vs. the NCAA and the Pac-12 contending that he and other college athletes have not been compensated fairly for their efforts playing sports.

The suit, filed Wednesday, attempts to classify players as employees of both the conference and sanctioning body. The suit says NCAA schools have “ignored the wage entitlements” of players by “permitting, encouraging and/or requiring student athletes” to work more than 40 hours a week and six days a week without compensating them minimum wage to begin with or for any overtime. It alleges that the Pac-12 and its member schools have been violating the Fair Labor Standards Act and, in USC’s case, California law.

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The suit, which you can read in full here courtesy of the Los Angeles Times, points out the Pac-12’s revenues of over $374 million in the 2013-14 fiscal year and says the conference and its schools “directly and/or indirectly employed and/or exercised control and regulation over the hours and working conditions” of athletes.

Dawson played at USC from 2011 to 2015. He was a four-star recruit in the class of 2011 and the No. 3 inside linebacker. He had 31 tackles in 2015 after redshirting in 2014 following a knee injury in 2013. He finished his USC career with 20 starts and 137 tackles.

The NCAA and schools have long contended that its athletes are not employees. A Pac-12 spokesperson told the Times that, “As has been made clear throughout the legal process, student-athletes are not employees.”

Here’s what the NCAA had to say.

“(We) strongly disagree with the notion that college students participating in athletics are employees,” Donald Remy, the organization’s chief legal officer, said in a statement. “Our experience is that these college students, like their non-athlete colleagues, are very focused on their academic endeavors. Moreover, they have a passion for their sport and a commitment to their teammates that can’t be equated to punching a time clock.”

A movement at Northwestern to unionize in 2014 gained traction when the National Labor Relations Board ruled that scholarship football players were employees under the common law definition.

The national NLRB office didn’t uphold the ruling, however. In August 2015, it ruled that the players weren’t able to unionize and that one team having the ability to unionize would “potentially upset the balance of competition.”

Northwestern, like USC, is a private school. The NCAA noted in its response to the national NLRB ruling that its member schools had recently voted to allow cost-of-attendance stipends to players as well as relaxed food limitations. Cost-of-attendance stipends are outside of scholarships and calculated on a per-school basis.

Dawson’s suit requests that the Pac-12 and schools pay damages for the the unpaid overtime and minimum wage (including interest) that it owes as well as to “cease and desist from unlawful activities” in violation of sections of the California Business and Professions Code.

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Nick Bromberg is the assistant editor of Dr. Saturday on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at nickbromberg@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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