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29 Feb 2016

INDIANAPOLIS — Three members of the University of Pennsylvania women’s track and field team filed suit against the university and the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) for violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). The athletes allege that they are entitled to be paid at least minimum wage for the work they perform as student athletes. They asked a federal court to certify their complaint as a collective action, proposing a class of all current and former NCAA Division I student athletes for the university from academic year 2012-13 to the present. The university and NCAA filed a motion to dismiss, which the court granted.

Status as Employee

The athletes allege that they should be characterized as employees of the university under FLSA. They allege that, under the standards established by the U.S. Department of Labor for when internships qualify as employment, they meet the test as employees. They specifically cite an intern fact sheet distributed by DOL which provides several factors for when an internship is not subject to FLSA.

However, the federal court held that the intern fact sheet was not intended to apply to student athletes. The court decided that the fact sheet does not purport to address any activities that take place in an educational setting but, rather, internship programs that take place at the facilities of for-profit private sector employers. According to the court, interns in such programs are working for entities that employ others to do the same type of work for compensation, unlike student athletes.

Athletes Not Employees

The federal court found that it must examine the economic reality of the relationship between the athletes and the university to properly assess whether they are employees under FLSA. First, the court stated that there is a tradition of amateurism in college sports, and that students who choose to participate in sports as part of their educational experience do so because they consider the experience to be beneficial to them in ways that do not involve monetary compensation. Additionally, DOL has taken the position that, as part of their overall educational program, universities may permit or require students to engage in various activities, including interscholastic athletics. These programs are conducted primarily for the benefit of the participants and are not “work” under FLSA. Therefore, DOL has stated that this does not result in an employee-employer relationship between the student and the university. Therefore, the court dismissed the plaintiffs’ complaint in this case.

Under FLSA, the most important preliminary question that plaintiffs must answer is whether they are considered covered employees. You should call (855) 754-2795 or complete the Free Unpaid Overtime Case Review form on the top right of this page to consult with an attorney as to whether you qualify as an employee under FLSA to file a wage suit. Our top-rated team of wage lawyers will evaluate your situation to determine your best course of action. We will also determine if it is in your best interest to file a lawsuit against your employer. There are strict time limitations for filing, so it is important that you call our experienced attorneys today.

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