NEW YORK — Hundreds of umpires for the United States Tennis Association (USTA) lost their class action overtime claim in federal court recently. The umpires claimed the USTA violated both New York state labor laws and the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) by classifying them as independent contractors and not paying them overtime wages. However, a federal judge concluded the USTA properly classified the umpires as independent contractors, and dismissed the case.
The Umpires’ Claims
Four USTA umpires sued the tennis association in September 2011 for misclassification and failure to pay overtime wages. Their claim received class certification last year for a class of umpires working at the US Open, dating back to 2005. According to their claim, during the two weeks they worked at the US Open, the umpires regularly work more than 40 hours a week.
Their schedules allegedly required them to start at ten o’clock in the morning and continue until late in the evening. As umpires for the US Open, they made calls during play, and were to discipline players and suspend play. They were also technically able to determine their schedules. However, the umpires claimed that, despite this discretionary decision- and schedule-making authority, their jobs were integral to the US Open. Therefore, the claimed they were employees, not independent contractors.
The Court’s Decision
When making its decision, the court looked at numerous factors associated with independent contractor classification. Independent contractors typically have the autonomy to determine their schedules, how they complete their contracted work, and the ability to offer their services to multiple businesses at once. Also, independent contractors provide services which are not integral to a business. Integral services are services such as making deliveries for a delivery company, and not necessarily services that are integral to a business’ functions, such as providing support for phone or computer servers.
In this case, the court noted the umpires maintained significant control over their schedules and where they worked, and their work required considerable discretion on their part. Additionally, many umpires, who receive between $115 to $200 per day during the US Open, along with airfare, hotel rooms, and food at the National Tennis Center, claim independent contractor status on their tax returns. Finally, the court did note that the umpires were integral to the US Open, since they make all of the calls on the tennis court. However, when considering the totality of the circumstances, the fact that the umpires only work for two weeks, and that they maintain a high level of control over their work, outweighed the heavy presumption that integral job functions translate to employee status. In this case, the court found the umpires to be “temporary workers,” and the independent contractor classification was correct.
Independent contractor classification is often very fact specific. Misclassification can occur both intentionally and unintentionally, and can result in significant loss in overtime wages. If you believe youwere misclassified as an independent contractor, our knowledgeable team of overtime pay lawyers will discuss and evaluate your situation for free. Contact us today at (855) 754-2795 or complete the Free Unpaid Overtime Case Review form. If we accept your case, under our No Fee Promise, you will pay no legal fees or costs unless you receive a settlement.