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NCAA Student-Athletes Advance Wage Suit Against Their Schools

Aug. 25, 2021, 10:09 PM

A group of student-athletes may proceed with Fair Labor Standards Act and multiple state wage claims against the colleges and universities they attended, a federal judge in Pennsylvania ruled Wednesday.

The plaintiffs alleged that their participation in NCAA sports for their schools interfered with their academics, was not connected to their education, and failed to provide any “significant educational benefits.”

As such, the plaintiffs plausibly alleged they’re employees entitled to wages for the time spent related to their sports, Judge John R. Padova of the the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania said in denying the attended schools’ motion to dismiss.

In reaching this conclusion, the court applied a multi-factor test used to determine whether interns are employees. Three factors weighed in favor of the finding of employe status, the other four were either neutral or weighed against.

In addition, the court flatly rejected the schools’ argument that they’re not required to pay the plaintiffs because they’re amateurs.

The plaintiffs are current and former student-athletes who attended and played collegiate sports for Villanova University, Fordham University, Sacred Heart University, Cornell University, and Lafayette College.

In 2019, they collectively sued their schools, the National Collegiate Athletic Association, and 25 other colleges and universities, including Princeton and Penn State, that are either located in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania or compete against schools there.

The court plans to issue a separate order on the motion to dismiss filed by the NCAA and non-attended schools, who have argued they’re not liable as joint employers.

P.L. McDonald Law LLC and Wigdor LLP represent the plaintiffs. Constangy Brooks Smith & Prophete LLP represent the NCAA and the schools.

The case is Johnson v. NCAA, E.D. Pa., No. 19-cv-05230, 8/25/21.

To contact the reporter on this story: Kathleen Dailey at kdailey@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Rob Tricchinelli at rtricchinelli@bloomberglaw.com

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