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Senne v. Kan. City Royals Baseball Corp.

United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

June 13, 2018, Argued and Submitted, San Francisco, California; August 16, 2019, Filed

Nos. 17-16245, 17-16267, 17-16276

Opinion

 [*922]  PAEZ, Circuit Judge:

It is often said that baseball is America's [**6]  pastime. In this case, current and former minor league baseball players allege that  [*923]  the American tradition of baseball collides with a tradition far less benign: the exploitation of workers. We are tasked with deciding whether these minor league players may properly bring their wage-and-hour claims on a collective and classwide basis.

BACKGROUND

Most major professional sports in America have their own "farm system" for developing talent: for the National Basketball Association, it's the G-League; for the National Hockey League, it's the American Hockey League; and for Major League Baseball (MLB), it's Minor League Baseball. MLB and its thirty franchise teams rely heavily on this extensive minor league system, which has nearly 200 affiliates across the country and employs approximately 6,000 minor league players. Nearly all MLB players begin their careers in the minor leagues. Each minor league club is associated with one of the thirty franchise MLB teams.

The minor league system is governed by the Major League Rules (MLRs), which dictate the terms of employment and compensation for both minor and major league players. Under the MLRs, all minor league players are required to sign a seven-year [**7]  Uniform Player Contract (UPC). Ostensibly, players are required to sign the UPC for "morale" and "to produce the similarity of conditions necessary for keen competition."

The UPC "obligates Player[s] to perform professional services on a calendar year basis, regardless of the fact that salary payments are to be made only during the actual championship playing season." It describes its scope as setting "the terms and conditions of employment during all periods in which Player is employed by Club as a Minor League Player." Players are paid by the MLB franchise affiliated with the minor league team for which they play. Under the UPC, first-year players are paid a fixed salary of $1,100 per month during the regular ("championship") season that runs from April through September. In addition to their salaries during the championship season, some players receive signing or performance-related bonuses and college scholarships.

Beginning in early March each year, the minor league affiliates conduct spring training in Arizona and Florida; every MLB franchise operates a minor league training complex in one of these two states. The parties dispute whether spring training is required, but the UPC [**8]  strongly indicates that it is mandatory.3 Virtually all players are unpaid during spring training.

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Full case includes Shepard's, Headnotes, Legal Analytics from Lex Machina, and more.

934 F.3d 918 *; 2019 U.S. App. LEXIS 24459 **; 170 Lab. Cas. (CCH) P36,727; 104 Fed. R. Serv. 3d (Callaghan) 773; 2019 WL 3849564

AARON SENNE; MICHAEL LIBERTO; OLIVER ODLE; BRAD MCATEE; CRAIG BENNIGSON; MATT LAWSON; KYLE WOODRUFF; RYAN KIEL; KYLE NICHOLSON; BRAD STONE; MATT DALY; AARON MEADE; JUSTIN MURRAY; JAKE KAHAULELIO; RYAN KHOURY; DUSTIN PEASE; JEFF NADEAU; JON GASTON; BRANDON HENDERSON; TIM PAHUTA; LEE SMITH; JOSEPH NEWBY; RYAN HUTSON; MATT FREVERT; ROBERTO ORTIZ; WITER JIMENEZ; KRIS WATTS; MITCH HILLIGOSS; DANIEL BRITT; YADEL MARTI; HELDER VELAQUEZ; JORGE JIMENEZ; JORGE MINYETY; EDWIN MAYSONET; JOSE DIAZ; NICK GIARRAPUTO; LAUREN GAGNIER; LEONARD DAVIS; GASPAR SANTIAGO; GRANT DUFF; OMAR AGUILAR; MARK WAGNER; DAVID QUINOWSKI; BRANDON PINCKNEY, Individually and on Behalf of All Those Similarly Situated; JAKE OPITZ; BRETT NEWSOME, Plaintiffs-Appellants, v. KANSAS CITY ROYALS BASEBALL CORP.; MARLINS TEAMCO LLC; SAN FRANCISCO BASEBALL ASSOCIATES, LLC; OFFICE OF THE COMMISSIONER OF BASEBALL, DBA Major League Baseball, an unincorporated association; ALLAN HUBER SELIG, "BUD"; ANGELS BASEBALL LP; ST. LOUIS CARDINALS, LLC; COLORADO ROCKIES BASEBALL CLUB, LTD.; CINCINNATI REDS, LLC; HOUSTON BASEBALL PARTNERS LLC; ATHLETICS INVESTMENT GROUP, LLC; ROGERS BLUE JAYS BASEBALL PARTNERSHIP; PADRES L.P.; SAN DIEGO PADRES BASEBALL CLUB, L.P.; MINNESOTA TWINS, LLC; DETROIT TIGERS, INC.; LOS ANGELES DODGERS LLC; STERLING METS L.P.; AZPB L.P.; NEW YORK YANKEES P'SHIP; RANGERS BASEBALL EXPRESS, LLC; MILWAUKEE BREWERS BASEBALL CLUB, INC.; CHICAGO CUBS BASEBALL CLUB, LLC; PITTSBURGH ASSOCIATES, LP; BASEBALL CLUB OF SEATTLE, LLP; LOS ANGELES DODGERS HOLDING COMPANY LLC; RANGERS BASEBALL, LLC, Defendants-Appellees.

Subsequent History: Rehearing denied by, En banc Senne v. Kan. City Royals Baseball Corp., 2020 U.S. App. LEXIS 88 (9th Cir. Cal., Jan. 3, 2020)

Stay granted by Senne v. Kan. City Royals Baseball Corp., 2020 U.S. App. LEXIS 1239 (9th Cir. Cal., Jan. 13, 2020)

Prior History:  [**1] Appeals from the United States District Court for the Northern District of California. D.C. No. 3:14-cv-00608-JCS. Joseph C. Spero, Magistrate Judge, Presiding.

Senne v. Kan. City Royals Baseball Corp., 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 32949 (N.D. Cal., Mar. 7, 2017)

CORE TERMS

players, choice-of-law, employees, district court, predominance, spring training, League, certification, residents, minor league, perform work, overtime law, season, workday, courts, teams, overtime, championship, borders, nonresidents, affiliate, wage law, circumstances, class action, questions, own law, defeat, cases, plaintiffs', principal activity

Civil Procedure, Appeals, Standards of Review, Abuse of Discretion, Special Proceedings, Class Actions, Certification of Classes, Clearly Erroneous Review, De Novo Review, Prerequisites for Class Action, Adequacy of Representation, Typicality, Numerosity, Commonality, Maintainability, Predominance, Superiority, Federal & State Interrelationships, Choice of Law, Forum & Place, Governmental Interests, Business & Corporate Compliance, Labor & Employment Law, Wage & Hour Laws, Wage Payments, Scope & Definitions, Overtime & Work Periods, Labor & Employment Law, Definition of Employ, Recordkeeping Requirements, Remedies, Class Actions, Private Suits, Scope & Definitions, Governments, Legislation, Interpretation