On August 7, 2013, Outten & Golden LLP filed a lawsuit against Major League Baseball on behalf of unpaid All-Star Game FanFest volunteers and other volunteers who performed unpaid work for Major League Baseball alleging the following:
MLB staffed its 2013 All-Star FanFest (“FanFest”), a lucrative, for-profit commercial operation that MLB promoted as “the largest interactive baseball theme park in the world,” and described as “baseball heaven on earth,” almost entirely with “volunteers,” and did not pay them any wages. MLB recruited approximately 2000 volunteers to “represent New York by welcoming . . . guests [in other words, paying customers] from around the world and assisting in the smooth operations of all of the [All-Star] events.”
By failing to pay Plaintiff and thousands of others for their productive work, MLB denied federal, state, and local governments significant tax revenue and denied the volunteers important benefits of working, including workers’ compensation insurance, social security contributions, and, most importantly, the ability to earn a fair day’s wage for a fair day’s work. MLB also excluded New Yorkers who could not afford to work for free.
MLB could have easily afforded to pay its FanFest workers. MLB charged adults $35.00 and children 2-years and older $30.00 to enter FanFest. Thousands of adults and children attended FanFest between July 12 and July 16, 2013, and, upon information and belief, spent over one million dollars there. Major League Baseball Properties’ Corporate Sales & Marketing department solicited lucrative corporate sponsorships by claiming that “Baseball fans of all ages are expected to attend 2013 MLB All-Star FanFest, and your organization will have the ideal venue to leverage the most eagerly awaited fan experience of the summer.” These corporate sponsorships earned MLB significant revenue. None of that revenue, however, ended up in the pockets of the New Yorkers whom MLB recruited to provide the labor necessary to prepare for and run FanFest and other All-Star Game events.
MLB used unpaid volunteers to assist with “hospitality, event logistics, community events, and transportation” for All-Star Weekend events around New York City. At FanFest, MLB used volunteers to operate the 40 attractions that were “included with the price of admission,” but did not provide All-Star Game tickets to FanFest volunteers. MLB refused to even pay for volunteers’ parking or transportation.
Through this lawsuit, the Plaintiff seeks to force MLB to (1) stop soliciting and accepting work from unpaid volunteers, (2) permit those who cannot afford to work for free to work for FanFest and other events related to the All-Star Game, and (3) recover unpaid wages for all unpaid volunteers who performed work for MLB during the relevant period. MLB’s failure to pay its volunteers any wages violated federal and state minimum wage laws, which require employers to pay at least the minimum wage for all work that they “suffer or permit,” and which exist to eliminate “labor conditions detrimental to the maintenance of the minimum standard of living necessary for health, efficiency, and general well-being of workers.”
On August 15, 2013, Plaintiff filed a Motion to Certify a Nationwide Collective of unpaid volunteers who performed work for MLB since August 7, 2010. Plaintiff filed a reply to MLB’s opposition on December 20, 2013. Plaintiff filed an Amended Complaint on November 25, 2013. MLB has asked the Court to dismiss Plaintiff’s lawsuit. Plaintiff opposed this motion on January 14, 2014.
On March 26, 2014, the Court dismissed Plaintiff's federal law claims because of a narrow exemption in the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), but did not rule on Plaintiff's New York Labor Law (NYLL) state law claims. The FLSA exemption was enacted by Congress in 1966 and designed to permit recreational facilities to employ young people on a seasonal basis and not have to pay them the relatively high minimum wages that existed at the time. Notably, the Court did not rule on whether Plaintiff and other volunteers were employees and whether they should have been paid, which is the key issue in the case. Therefore the case is still alive, at least for volunteers who worked in New York. We plan to re-file the NYLL claims in state court soon. We are currently reviewing our options with respect to an appeal of the FLSA ruling. Volunteers who worked in states other than New York may also have viable claims under their own state labor laws.