DOL: Take Me Out To the Ball Game…And While You’re At It, Pay Me, Too

SAN FRANCISCO –“Take Me Out To The Ballgame” may be a favorite baseball anthem for fans, but hundreds of the workers in the sport are singing a different tune, thanks to the Labor Department: “And while you’re at it, pay me, too.”
That’s because the federal DOL’s Wage and Hour Division has already caught and fined at least one major league franchise, the San Francisco Giants, $765,000 in two cases for violating wage and hour and overtime pay laws.  The division fined another team – the Miami Marlins – and is probing paychecks at two more, the Oakland A’s and the Baltimore Orioles.
Further, Wage and Hour has warned the rest of baseball, major and minor league, about its pay practices.  Four years ago, when the team was under prior management, Wage and Hour caught the minor league Memphis Redbirds, a St. Louis farm team, breaking the law.
The baseball probes are yet another indication of a common phenomenon in the U.S.: Wage theft.  Employers, especially in areas such as trucking and apparel, steal hundreds of millions of dollars from workers annually by misclassifying them as “independent contractors” ineligible for overtime pay, or paying them below the minimum wage, or denying overtime pay.
And wage theft in sports isn’t confined to baseball: The Oakland Raiderettes and the Buffalo Jills – female cheerleading squads for those two pro football franchises – have filed class action suits against the teams saying the women are earning below minimum wage.
A Wage and Hour settlement, announced last month, found the Giants, in one of the most pro-union pro-worker cities in the U.S., broke the law for a second time, by paying 78 workers, most of them interns, stipends, and not the minimum wage and overtime.  DOL said the interns worked in baseball operations and group sales, among other duties, and were due back pay ranging from $60-$4,000 each, for a total of $220,793.
In the first settlement, announced last year, the Giants paid  $544,715 in back wages and damages to 74 employees.  DOL said some were clubhouse workers who earned $55 daily but worked so many hours that their wages fell below the federal hourly minimum of $7.25 and California’s then-minimum, $8.  They also got no overtime.  And DOL ruled then that the Giants improperly classified some workers as exempt from overtime pay.
Wage and Hour Division spokesman Jason Surbey said the Marlins will pay $288,290 in back wages and damages to 39 clubhouse and office workers.  The 23 clubhouse workers, who clean and prepare the locker room for games, were paid $50 a day.  But they worked up to 11 hours on game days.  That broke minimum wage and overtime law.
“Whether in America’s factories, fields or ball parks, a fair day’s work deserves a fair day’s pay,” Wage and Hour Administrator David Weil said after the second Giants case settled in late May.  “Unfortunately, in our recent investigations of major league baseball teams, we found employees not being paid the minimum wage and overtime to which they are legally entitled.  That’s unacceptable and I am pleased we have been able to secure back wages for those workers.”
-PAI