Months after it launched investigations into the pay practices of the San Francisco Giants and Miami Marlins, the U.S. Department of Labor is now looking into the practices of two other Major League Baseball clubs: the Baltimore Orioles and Oakland Athletics.
The investigation, according to FairWarning.org, is similar to those involving the Giants and Marlins: it involves questions about pay for clubhouse and front office workers and interns who were allegedly paid less than the minimum wage and were denied overtime pay. In announcing the expanded investigation, the Dept. of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division also announced that it had reached settlements with the Giants and Marlins, FairWarning’s Myron Levin and Stuart Silverstein report:
According to agency spokesman Jason Surbey, the Marlins agreed to pay $288,290 in back wages and damages to 39 team employees, including clubhouse and office staff. The 23 clubhouse workers, who provide services to team players such as cleaning and preparing the locker room for games, were paid $50 a day. But they worked as many as 11 hours on game days, and so were not properly paid the minimum wage and overtime, Surbey said.
The settlement with the Giants involves payment of $220,793 in back wages and damages to 78 employees. Most were interns who received stipends but were determined by the agency to have been employees entitled to minimum wage and overtime. The interns worked in baseball operations and group sales, among other duties, and were due back wages ranging from $60 to $4,000 apiece.
The Giants had already agreed to pay nearly $545,000 in back wages to settle a previous case involving clubhouse workers. Major League Baseball warned its clubs last year that they needed to review pay practices, because wage theft had become “endemic to our industry.”
Pay for workers around professional sports has become a major legal topic in recent months, particularly in Major League Baseball and the National Football League, where at least five teams are facing lawsuits from former cheerleaders who say they were paid less than the minimum wage. The first suit, filed against the Oakland Raiders, said that cheerleaders were paid less than $5 an hour. The latest, filed this week against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, alleged that the team paid cheerleaders roughly $2 per hour.
Major League Baseball is also facing a lawsuit from multiple minor league players who allege that they also made less than the minimum wage. The former minor leaguers alleged that minor league clubs sometimes paid players at the lowest levels of baseball less than $7,500 a year and also required unpaid work, which could violate the federal Fair Labor and Standards Act.
This isn’t just a problem in professional sports. In 2012, data showed that wage theft complaints across all industries had increased 400 percent since 2000, and reports suggest that more than two-thirds of low-income workers will experience wage theft at some point in their lives. Fast food workers across the country are fighting for better wages from employers like McDonalds, which is facing wage theft lawsuits in three states. One report says that in New York City, where the movement against fast food companies began, more than 80 percent of fast food workers had been victims of wage theft.