·  Legal News, Analysis, & Commentary


Judge Says M.L.B. Must Pay Minor League Players At Least Minimum Wage

— March 16, 2022

In his ruling, the California-based magistrate also found that minor leaguers must be compensated for travel time when they are playing in Arizona and California.

A federal judge has found that minor league baseball players are year-round employees who should be compensated for their training time.

According to The Associated Press, Chief Magistrate Joseph C. Spero of the United States District Court for the Northern District of California determined that Major League Baseball violated Arizona and California’s minimum laws.

By forcing minor league players to work without compensation, Spero ruled that the organization should be liable for triple damages.

Spero also awarded an additional $1,882,650 in penalties.

The Associated Press reports that Spero unsealed his 181-page ruling on Tuesday. The decision could resolve a pay-dispute lawsuit filed eight years ago.

Spero also found that minor leaguers must be compensated for travel time to and from games in the California League, as well as practices sessions in Arizona and Florida.

Baseball field; image courtesy of Pxhere, CC0.
Baseball field; image courtesy of Pxhere, CC0.

“These are not students who have enrolled in a vocational school with the understanding that they would perform services, without compensation, as part of the practical training necessary to compete [sic] the training and obtain a license,” Spero wrote.

Spero further rejected many of the M.LB.’s requests for summary judgments, and said that the case could move to trial on June 1.

However, The A.P. notes that Spero’s latest ruling only applies to athletes who play in Arizona; the damages to those players shall be determined at a later date.

The Advocates for Minor Leaguers, an interest group for minor league baseball players, released a statement celebrating the ruling.

In it, the Advocates for Minor Leaguers opined that players are paid unsustainable, poverty-level wages.

“For decades, minor league players have worked long hours year-round in exchange for poverty-level wages,” the organization said. “Working as a professional baseball player requires far more than just playing baseball games. It also requires hours of year-round training, practice, and preparation, for which we have never been properly compensated.

“We are thrilled with today’s ruling, which is an enormous step toward holding MLB accountable for its longstanding mistreatment of minor league players,” Advocates for Minor Leaguers added.

Spero, adds The Associated Press, has presided over the wage dispute case for years.

“The court has previously held that plaintiffs are employees rather than trainees,” Spero wrote.

In an earlier ruling, Spero held that Major League Baseball is a joint employer of minor league players; that such players perform “overtime work,” as defined by the Fair Labor Standards Act; and that travel time to and from games is always compensable under the FLSA, as well as California and Arizona law.


Federal judge rules minor leaguers are year-round MLB employees

Judge: Minor leaguers work year-round, MLB violated wage law

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