Apr 27, 2016

Student athletes miss another shot at certification

In our earlier Client Alert, we reported on the Ninth Circuit’s decision in O’Bannon v. NCAA, which had simultaneously expanded and limited the labor rights of student athletes in the NCAA. Recently, another federal court, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana, rejected another attempt by NCAA student athletes to certify a collective action under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).

In Berger v. NCAA (1:14-cv-1710-WTL-MJD), members of the University of Pennsylvania track and field team sued the NCAA, seeking a determination that they were employees under the FLSA and, thus, should be paid at least minimum wage and overtime. Their labor claims were dismissed. The Southern District emphasized the specific language in the statute and the concept of “amateurism” to decide that these athletes were not “employees” under the FLSA.

Like the 9th Circuit in O’Bannon, this Federal Court continued to limit the labor rights of student athletes. The Southern District emphasized the narrow scope of its decision, grounding its reasoning in the explicit statutory language of the FLSA. However, like the O’Bannon Court, the Southern District recognized the broader societal and philosophical issues associated with compensation of student athletes, ultimately looking outward to society and government to provide clarification and guidance on the issue. As the popularity (and thus profits) of the NCAA continues to rise, courts and politicians alike will continue to confront issues related to the labor rights of student athletes.   

This Chuhak & Tecson, P.C. communication is intended only to provide information regarding developments in the law and information of general interest. It is not intended to constitute advice regarding legal problems and should not be relied upon as such.

Client alert authored by: Evan D. Blewett, Associate