Lamar Dawson, ex-USC football player, filed a California lawsuit against the NCAA and Pac-12 that was dismissed earlier this month by a federal judge, Judge Richard Seeborg. Dawson’s class action was filed in September 2016 seeking minimum wage and overtime pay as well as additional compensation as a result of alleged NCAA and Pac-12 Fair Labor Standards Act and California Labor Code violations.
Lamar Dawson started out at USC as a linebacker his freshman year in 2011, but was injured. His injuries disrupted his football career and he lost his shot at the NFL – mostly due to a torn ACL that occurred in 2013. He redshirted in 2014 and played in 8 games throughout the 2015 season, finishing with 31 tackles.
This decision to dismiss was reminiscent of a similar case last year involving former track and field athletes from the University of Pennsylvania. The three-judge panel in the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in that case ruled former student-athletes at NCAA Division I schools are not technically considered employees under the rules set down by the Fair Labor Standards Act.
Dawson contended during the course of the case that his specific situation was different than the case of University of Pennsylvania’s track and field athletes because football is a revenue-generating sport (in comparison to track). The judge ruled that revenue generation as a determination of employment status is not supported legally. Seeborg set aside the policy question of how Division I FBS college football players should be compensated for what he considered a more fundamental issue determining the direction of the case and his eventual ruling: legal basis for finding them employees under the FLSA. He found none.
The NCAA and Pac-12 were not surprised by the ruling. Both had previously stated similar opinions regarding the validity of Dawson’s claim dating back to the original filing. The NCAA is pleased with the outcome and reiterated their stance that there is no legal support for college athletics participation constituting “employment” with the university. They went on to specify that playing college sports is an opportunity for students to obtain a quality education and build skills that prepare them for educational success at the college level. They concluded their thoughts on the matter by regretting the wasted funds and resources that are spent on cases such as this that will eventually be dismissed. The Pac-12 was also pleased with the ruling finding that it reaffirmed their conviction that college athletes are students – not employees.
If you have questions regarding employment status or whether or not you are misclassified on the job, please get in touch with one of the experienced California employment law attorneys at Blumenthal, Nordrehaug & Bhowmik.