Friday October 24th, 2014

A new lawsuit filed by a former college soccer player alleges that the NCAA and its institutions violated the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), which requires all employees to earn at least the federal minimum wage, reports USA Today.

Filed in U.S. District Court in Indianapolis, the suit names the NCAA and every Division I school as defendants.

The plaintiff in the case is Samantha Sackos, who played for the women's soccer team at the University of Houston from 2010-11 through 2013-14. Her lawsuit was filed by a Paul L. McDonald, a Philadelphia-based attorney.

The federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour was set in 2009. Employers are required to pay workers that amount and, if they work more than 40 hours in any given week, an overtime rate that is not less than 1-1/2 times the regular rate of pay.

"Student athletes meet the criteria for recognition as temporary employees of NCAA Division I Member Schools under the FLSA as much as, if not more than, work study participants, and, thus, NCAA Division I Member Schools are required by law to pay student athletes at least the federal minimum-wage of $7.25 an hour," the complaint says.

According to the lawsuit, students who participate in part-time jobs, such as work study, get no academic credit, so they meet the FLSA's definition of temporary employees of the schools. 

The plaintiff is seeking “unpaid wages” as far back as two years ago and an injunction against the NCAA and its Division 1 schools. Sackos' suit cites data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics which says that ushers and those who sell programs at athletic events make an average of $9.03 per hour, but students who perform duties in work study jobs aren’t paid at all.

The NCAA's member institutions "must ... pay them" at least the minimum wage, the complaint says.

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According to the lawsuit, McDonald says he tried talking to the NCAA about the matter before suing, but the NCAA said it is exempt from FLSA requirements because it considers regulated sports to be extracurricular activities like debate teams, radio stations, and intramural athletics.

"We are currently evaluating the complaint, but disagree that student-athletes are participating in athletics as employees. Student-athletes have a passion for their sport and a commitment to their teammates that can't be equated to punching a time clock,” NCAA chief legal officer Donald Remy said.

- Scooby Axson

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