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MLB Says Minor League Class Certification Ruling Unprecedented

Sept. 3, 2020, 4:13 PM

A Ninth Circuit ruling allowing minor league baseball players to proceed as a class with wage and hour claims should be struck down because it violates U.S. Supreme Court precedent and conflicts with multiple circuit courts, Major League Baseball told the high court.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit failed to determine whether the players’ workday length is a common question suitable for class certification, MLB and its affiliate teams said in a brief to the Supreme Court filed Wednesday.

“Had the Ninth Circuit engaged in any meaningful analysis of whether the hours-worked issue is a common question, the answer plainly would have been no,” the league said.

“And it is obviously not, as the class spans workers as disparate as a Cubs shortstop in rookie ball who is a fixture around the clubhouse and a longtime AAA pitcher in the Marlins organization who is rarely seen when he is not scheduled to start,” the league said.

The decision also conflicts with the Third, Sixth, Seventh, Eighth, and Tenth circuits by rejecting a “cohesiveness test” for the class, the league said.

The players allege that the MLB and its affiliate clubs don’t pay minimum wage or overtime.

The Ninth Circuit in August 2019 revived the class action status for the cases in Arizona and Florida, where players participate in spring training each year, and confirmed the case will move forward in California and as a federal collective action.

MLB and the clubs filed a petition for certiorari in June, arguing that thousands of minor-league baseball players who played at different positions for dozens of affiliates across 30 major league clubs who were paid under different compensation terms can’t be “shoehorned into a class action” for “trial by formula.”

Kirkland & Ellis LLP and Proskauer Rose LLP represent the petitioners. Korein Tillery LLC represents the minor league players.

The case is Kansas City Royals Baseball Corp. v. Senne, U.S., No. 19-1339, 9/2/20.

To contact the reporter on this story: Peter Hayes in Washington at PHayes@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Rob Tricchinelli at rtricchinelli@bloomberglaw.com; Patrick L. Gregory at pgregory@bloomberglaw.com

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