A federal probe of the pay practices of major league baseball teams has expanded to include the Oakland A’s and the Baltimore Orioles. The Labor Department is currently investigating clubhouse and administrative workers and interns. In some cases, those workers have not been paid overtime for more than 40 hours of work in a week, or were paid less than minimum wage.
The Labor Department has already investigated the Miami Marlins and the San Francisco Giants, and they will be required to give back wages to workers who were underpaid. The Marlins agreed to pay almost $300,000 in wages to 39 team employees. Twenty-three of those workers who cleaned the locker room were only paid $50 a day, and were paid less than minimum wage.
The Giants agreed to pay over $200,000 in damages to 78 employees, most of whom were interns. The interns did receive stipends, but were employees who should have been entitled to minimum wage. The case involving the Giants was the second one for the team – last year, the team had to pay over $500,000 in back wages to employees who got less than minimum wage and no overtime. The Giants also have classified some workers as exempt from overtime improperly, including clubhouse managers and video operators. Currently, California’s minimum wage is $8 an hour, and the federal minimum wage is $7.25.
Federal officials are still openly investigating the Orioles and the A’s and are currently providing no details. A spokesperson for the A’s alleges that all of its employment practices are in compliance with the wage laws.
Unpaid internships have been a hotbed of controversy in recent years. With the job market in some fields and some areas of the country being poor, many workers will gladly accept an unpaid internship in order to get their foot in the door of a company in hopes of getting experience that will lead to a paying job. Some unpaid interns who work in media, sports, and entertainment have to work hard to even get the unpaid internship, because so many people want to work in those fields.
According to the guidelines of the Labor Department, unpaid internships are only allowable in certain cases. If the internship is designed to educate the worker, it’s legally permissible not to pay the intern. However, if the internship is to benefit the employer or to displace regular workers, the job must be a paid position.
The MLB commissioner’s office has admitted that questionable pay practices are a big problem to the industry. Not only are major league teams facing legal questions about their pay practices, but dozens of minor league affiliates may also have violated the laws on minimum wage and overtime.
Companies are always looking for a way to cut costs. Many believe they can legally do this through the use of unpaid interns. However, many interns must be paid minimum wage, as well as overtime if the position requires over a certain number of hours in a day or week. The determination on whether an intern must be paid a minimum wage is very fact-dependent, and must be determined on a case-by-case basis after looking at what the job entails.
If you are an intern or an employee, and you believe you were denied overtime or minimum wage, call Oakland employment attorney Micha Star Liberty of Liberty Law at 510-645-1000 or 415-896-1000. She works with clients throughout the Bay area, and will be happy to speak with you about your case. Call today to learn more about your legal rights.