Major League Baseball (MLB) All-Star Weekend Volunteers Not Employees Under Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA)
Judge John G. Koeltl from the Southern District of New York has dismissed the minimum wage claims of an individual who served as a volunteer at last year’s Major League Baseball All Star Weekend FanFest, held at New York City’s Javits Center, based on the “amusement or recreational establishment” exemption. Chen v. Major League Baseball, 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 42078 (S.D.N.Y. Mar. 25, 2014).
Plaintiff worked three shifts as a volunteer at FanFest, stamping attendees’ wrists, handing out paraphernalia and directing attendees. He argued that this work made him an “employee” of Major League Baseball. Judge Koeltl declined to address whether Plaintiff’s volunteer services made him an “employee”, because even if the court made such a conclusion, Plaintiff’s claim failed as a matter of law as Plaintiff was “employed by an establishment which is an amusement or recreational establishment . . . [which did] not operate for more than seven months in any calendar year.”
While Chen is a victory for the employer community in light of the widespread series of actions brought by individuals classified as outside FLSA protection, principally asserted by interns, many businesses are not seasonal in nature and thus cannot readily avail themselves of this exemption. All potential exemptions and defenses to claims for minimum and overtime wages must be closely analyzed under the FLSA and, as applicable, state law.