Spring Training – When is Training Time Compensable?
On March 5, 2014, twenty former minor league baseball players filed suit in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California against the Office of the Commissioner of Major League Baseball (“MLB”), Bud Selig and more than half of the MLB’s franchises. Over a series of blog posts, Maryland labor and employment attorney will discuss some of the issues presented in the 381-page lawsuit, provide updates to the litigation and address how these issues should be handled by private employers.
MLB Labor Issues – When is Training Time Compensable?
One of the primary issues in the lawsuit relates to the teams’ alleged failure to pay minor leaguers their salaries during spring training, during instructional leagues and at winter training. The former minor leaguers allege that they are not paid for time spent at spring training despite working for more than 50 hours per week during spring training.
Under the Fair Labor Standards Act, employers are required to compensate employees for all “hours worked.” However, questions sometimes arise as to whether time spent at meetings, training or seminars outside the employee’s normal employment counts as “hours worked” such that the employee is required to be paid for this time. The FLSA’s regulations require that employees be compensated for training time unless the meetings are outside working hours, attendance is voluntary, the training is not directly related to the employee’s job and the employee does no productive work during the meeting or training. While these standards may appear straight-forward, issues frequently arise regarding the voluntariness of the training and whether the training is directly related to the employee’s work. Lawsuits for unpaid training time may be brought under the Fair Labor Standards Act or an individual state’s employment statutes, which provide for recovery of the unpaid wages, liquidated damages and attorneys’ fees, which can quickly escalate the costs of non-compliance.