California Labor Code § 2855 and Sports: Can Federal Labor Preemption Uphold the Enforceability of NHL Contracts for California Teams?
New York State Bar Association Labor & Employment Section Newsletter, Forthcoming
31 Pages Posted: 21 Feb 2014
Date Written: December 10, 2013
North American sports leagues have a long history of restrictive players rights clauses. Originally the product of contract law, today's restrictive rights systems are collectively bargained with each league's respective players' union. However, this bargaining appears to be in conflict with California Labor Code § 2855 which limits the length of personal services contracts in California to seven years.
This article evaluates the potential result if an NHL player chose to challenge his contract under § 2855 in a declaratory judgment action in a California state court. Part I briefly describes the history of the reserve clause in sports and the NHL’s current free agency system. Part II considers the prima facie application of section 2855 to NHL players as a matter of California state law. Finally, Part III will consider the application of federal preemption doctrine to § 2855 as a defense to a potential player challenge. Ultimately, this Note argues that section 2855 applies to all California NHL players who have been under contract or restrictive rights clauses for seven full seasons. Further, the current reach of federal labor preemption doctrine would only affect a small number of these players.
Keywords: California, NHL, sports, contract limits, labor preemption, Cal. Lab. Code 2855
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