Minor League Strikes Out on Wage Claims: Judge Decertifies Collective and Class Actions

Former minor league players who filed a lawsuit claiming Major League Baseball engaged in minimum wage and overtime violations under the Fair Labor Standards Act may feel as if they struck out at the end of a very big game as a federal Magistrate judge in San Francisco sided with the MLB recently when players attempted to have their lawsuits certified as a collective action and class action, respectively.

Previously the judge conditionally certified the proposed collection action under the FLSA (as of October 2015). Yet in the latest ruling, the judge granted the MLB’s motion to decertify. The judge also denied the players (Plaintiffs) request to certify their state law wage and hour claims as a class action. Most see the decertification and denial as a major win for the MLB.

What Are Collective Actions and Class Actions? They both involve groups of plaintiffs joining together in a lawsuit, but they aren’t exactly the same. The most important difference between the two is that plaintiffs who want to be involved in a collective action may simply opt in to the group. Comparatively, those who would not like to be included in a class action must “opt out” or find themselves bound by the resulting judgment on the case.

Plaintiffs in this case allege that the MLB and its clubs were in violation of the FLSA and other, similar, state wage and hour laws. They claim they were paid a total of $3,000-$7,000 over the course of a season lasting five months even though they were working anywhere from 50-70 hours each week throughout the season. The former players also claim that they were paid less than minimum wage, they were denied overtime pay, and they were required to “train” during the off season without compensation.

The July 21, 2016 Order from the Magistrate Judge denied the plaintiffs’ motion that state wage and hour claims be certified as a class action. He stated that the plaintiffs’ failed to meet specified legal requirements. He stated that there would be no simple method of identifying who would be a member of the class in various states. He stated that the plaintiffs failed to demonstrate that the “typicality” requirement was met as the court was unable to determine if representatives for different states presented claims collectively that were typical of the class as a whole. He also stated that the common questions raised by law were not predominant in the face of individual concerns. Conclusively, even though the Judge found the “numerosity” requirement to be met, and the “commonality” requirement to be met, and that the class representatives could protect the interests of the class, he refused to certify.

If you have questions or concerns regarding class certification or if you need to discuss your eligibility to act as representative in a proposed class action, please get in touch with an experienced employment law attorney at Blumenthal, Nordrehaug & Bhowmik.