The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) and 22 Division I (D1) universities have been hit with a massive proposed class action lawsuit filed by a former Villanova football player who argues student athletes are employees and deserve to be paid at least the minimum wage for their work.
The 116-page complaint says that while student employees, such as food concession workers, ticket takers and seating attendants employed through the defendants’ work study programs, are paid hourly wages, student athletes are wrongly denied any such compensation. The plaintiff, who went onto an NFL career as a cornerback with the Pittsburgh Steelers and Denver Broncos before landing in the Canadian Football League (CFL), stresses that student athletes are inexcusably paid nothing despite their work effectively creating other, paid students’ work study job opportunities.
All told, the lawsuit out of Pennsylvania’s Eastern District alleges that there is no legal basis for the NCAA and its institutional co-defendants, listed below, to not pay at least the minimum wage to student athletes given that their collegiate “athletic experience,” the plaintiff argues, amounts to work for which they deserve to be compensated by law:
Fairleigh Dickinson University;
La Salle University;
Robert Morris University;
Seton Hall University;
Saint Francis University;
Saint Joseph’s University;
Saint Peter’s University;
University of Delaware;
Pennsylvania State University;
University of Pittsburgh;
Rutgers, State University of New Jersey; and
According to the complaint, students who participate in collegiate work study programs are considered employees under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) despite their pay’s exemption from Social Security and Medicare taxes. Citing the FLSA and the Pennsylvania Minimum Wage Act (PMWA), the lawsuit argues that the federal and state laws governing the payment of wages “overrule the NCAA’Sself-defined amateurism” and points out that student athletes “are employees the same as, if not more so than, participants in work study programs.” Bolded in the complaint is the fact that no act of Congress exists that’s codified the NCAA’s amateurism stance.
At the heart of the lawsuit is a densely detailed argument from the plaintiff as to why student athletes should be considered employees under the FLSA. The majority of the complaint expands upon two tests—theGlatt test, which concerns whether interns should be considered employees, and theDonovan test, which concerns whether workers should be classified as independent contractors—used by courts to decide whether certain workers can be classified as bona fide employees within the FLSA’s framework. According to the lawsuit, both legal tests indicate the plaintiff and the proposed collective of student athletes are, in fact, employees by law.
Recent months have seen the NCAA’s long-held stance on not paying student athletes continually dragged back into the spotlight by critics, attorneys and state legislators. The case’s filing comes a little more than a month after California Governor Gavin Newsom signed a bill into law that allows college athletes in the state to sign paid endorsement deals in the face of NCAA laws against such. Under S.B. 206, called the “Fair Play to Pay Act,” state and private universities in California are prohibited from stopping college athletes from “earning compensation as a result of the use of the student’s name, image or likeness.” At the end of October, the NCAA Board of Governorsannouncedit would begin to loosen up its rules against student athletes profiting from endorsement money.
According to ESPN’s Dan Murphy, the lawsuit below marks thethird attemptby the plaintiff’s attorney to get the NCAA to consider student athletes in the same light as work study employees.