Major League Baseball has agreed to pay $185million to settle a federal class-action lawsuit filed eight years ago over minimum wage and overtime pay violations for minor league players.
The agreement was filed Friday with the U.S. District Court in San Francisco and is awaiting final approval from Chief Magistrate Judge Joseph C. Spero, who is expected to grant the request.
The lawsuit, initially filed in March 2014 by three retired minor league players – Aaron Senne, Michael Liberto and Oliver Odle – was settled on May 10 to avoid a trial that was to start three weeks later. Per the agreement, players will split a total sum of $120,197,300 with the remaining portion to go towards attorney fees and other related costs.
MLB also agreed to rescind its former policy of paying minor league players only within the confines of the season, which prevented players from receiving wages during spring training, extended spring training and when participating in instructional leagues.
"This settlement is a monumental step for minor league players towards a fair and just compensation system," said Garrett Broshuis, an attorney representing the players. "As a former minor league baseball player, I’ve seen first-hand the financial struggle players face while earning poverty-level wages – or no wages at all – in pursuit of their major league dream."
Spero previously awarded the players over $1.8 million in damages after finding MLB in violation of California wage requirements back in March. The judge also ruled that minor leaguers should be considered year-round employees and that MLB violated Arizona minimum wage laws as well.
"These are not students who have enrolled in a vocational school with the understanding that they would perform services, without compensation, as part of the practical training necessary to complete the training and obtain a license," Spero wrote.
After receiving increased pressure from both players and labour advocates, MLB agreed to increase minimum salaries of minor league players prior to the 2021 season and announced a new housing policy in November that would provide most players at all levels furnished housing accommodations at the expense of major league clubs.
"We are only in the second year of a major overhaul of the 100-year-old player development system and have made great strides to improve the quality of life for minor league players," MLB said in a statement.
"We are proud that minor league players already receive significant benefits, including free housing, quality health care, multiple meals per day, college tuition assistance for those who wish to continue their education and over $450 million in annual signing bonuses for first-year players."