Gaming the System: The Exemption of Professional Sports Teams from the Fair Labor Standards Act
61 Pages Posted: 25 Feb 2015 Last revised: 26 Apr 2016
Date Written: February 23, 2015
This article examines a little known exemption to the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) that relieves seasonal recreational or amusement employers from their obligation to pay the minimum wage and overtime. The article evaluates the existing, confused case law surrounding the exemption and proposes a new, simplified framework for applying the provision. It then applies this framework to a recent wave of FLSA lawsuits brought against professional sports teams by cheerleaders, minor league baseball players, and stadium workers who claim they received less than the hourly minimum wage and/or were denied overtime pay. In particular, it determines that, when viewed properly, sports teams will often qualify for the exemption in at least some aspects of their operations. The article concludes by considering the policy implications of exempting this class of employers — some of which are worth up to three billion dollars — from the FLSA’s wage and hour requirements.
Keywords: National Football League, NFL, Major League Baseball, MLB, Fair Labor Standards Act, FLSA, National Basketball Association, NBA, National Hockey League, NHL, minimum wage, overtime, cheerleaders, minor league baseball, Senne, 213(a)(3), Bridewell v. Cincinnati Reds, Jeffery v. Sarasota White Sox
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