Major and Minor League Baseball teams have come under fire for wage violations lately from the United States Department of Labor. The Department, suspicious of several of the League’s wage practices has launched investigations into several Major League teams, resulting in settlements for the benefits of many low-paid employees.
Owners and club presidents have been urged by the Commissioner’s Office to comply with investigations and to remedy violations when they are found.
San Francisco Giants
As we previously discussed, the San Francisco Giants were one of the first major league teams (along with the Marlins) to be investigated by the Department of Labor. They determined that the Giants had improperly classified some workers as exempt from overtime pay, when they should not have been. Many of the other Giants employees were interns who were only paid a stipend of around $50 per day, but who often worked 11 hours or more on days when there were games, putting them at well below the minimum wage.
The Department of Labor classified those interns, under its guidelines, as employees, requiring them to be paid. Unpaid internships, which have been especially prevalent in glamour industries such as entertainment, media and sports, have generated controversy and an enormous amount of private litigation. Under Department of Labor guideline, unpaid internships are proper only when designed for the EDUCATION of interns, not to benefit the employer or displace regular workers.
The Giants were ordered to pay a total of $765,508 in a series of agreements with the DOL for back wages and damages to unpaid workers.
The Oakland As are one of the latest teams, along with the Baltimore Orioles, to bring themselves under the purview of the Department of Labor. Having been accused of underpaying clubhouse workers and interns, as with the Giants, the club just reached a settlement with the DOL on behalf of 86 workers.
The club will shell out $266,358 to cover back pay and damages.
“We were pleased that we were able to assist in getting workers what they deserve, a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work,” David Weil, the administrator of the DOL’s Wage and Hour Division, said in an e-mailed statement. “WHD continues discussions with [Major League Baseball] and looks for future opportunities to provide meaningful compliance assistance.” In an e-mailed statement, the A’s said that they had conducted their own internal audit in 2013 and they were “pleased that the matter could be resolved quickly and informally with the DOL to both parties’ satisfaction.”
As of this date there has not been an agreement reached in the Baltimore case, but we will keep an eye on it.
However, Major League Baseball clubs are not the only culprits in the baseball world. Many of these investigations began as a result of improprieties in wages at the minor league level, a topic we will discuss in our next article.