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Should College Athletes Be Paid? NCAA & PAC-12 Class Action Lawsuit

By on October 3, 2016

Lamar Dawson thinks so.  The former University of California linebacker filed a class action complaint this week alleging that the NCAA and PAC-12 should compensate college athletes because the athlete meet the definition of “employees” under federal and California labor laws.

The NCAA currently faces another class action that the Supreme Court may here next session. NCAA v. O’Bannon, an antitrust suit originally filed by former UCLA basketball start Ed O’Bannon fighting for players rights to make money off their name, image and likeness. Dawson’s class action lawsuit is different in that the plaintiff is alleging that the NCAA and the PAC-12 are the student athlete’s employer.  

For the NCAA and PAC-12, the lawsuit might be a way to keep student athletes happy by paying them, but how much? What would the hourly rate be?  The complaint cites that the NCAA disclosed its revenues are $6.1 billion annually and that student athletes have no choice other than to comply with the rules of the NCAA.

“Not a single dollar of that enormous revenue would exist if it were not for the efforts of the athletes themselves. In so doing, Defendants have controlled and regulated the employment of student athletes who have not met, and currently do not meet, any test for exemption from the payment of minimum wage, overtime wages and other wage entitlements,” according to the complaint.

The lawsuit seeks unpaid wages, overtime pay and damages contending that college players were required to work more than 8 hours a day and 40 hours a week without adequate compensation.

According to the Los Angeles Times, the NCAA spokesman disputed the claims premise stating that student-athletes are not employees and it has been made clear throughout the legal process.

The spokesman does have ground to stand on, at least for the federal claims.  Just in March 2016, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana ruled that student athletes are not employees citing that the Department of Labor expressly took the position that ‘as part of their overall educational program, public or private schools and institutions of higher learning may permit or require students to engage in activities in connection with dramatics, student publications, glee clubs, bands, choirs, debating teams, radio stations, intramural and interscholastic athletics and other similar endeavors. Activities of students in such programs, conducted primarily for the benefit of the participants as part of the educational opportunities provided to the students by the school or institution, are not ‘work’ under the FLSA and do not result in an employee-employer relationship between the student and the school or institution.’

But, California state labor laws protect employees more than other states.  We will wait to see how this plays out in court.

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