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The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) defines "employee" as any individual employed by an employer and "employ" as including to suffer or permit to work. 29 U.S.C.S. § 203(g), (e). While courts should construe the terms "employee" and "employer" expansively, the definition of "employee" does have its limits. As a general rule, whether there is an employment relationship under the FLSA is tested by economic reality rather than technical concepts. To guide this inquiry, courts have developed a variety of multifactor tests. The Ninth Circuit has a four-factor test, which asks whether the employer (1) had the power to hire and fire the employees, (2) supervised and controlled employee work schedules or conditions of employment, (3) determined the rate and method of payment, and (4) maintained employment records. That test, however, is not etched in stone and will not be blindly applied. The "ultimate determination" of employer status must be based upon the circumstances of the whole activity.
Plaintiff Lamar Dawson, a former college football player for the University of Southern California, brought the present putative class action lawsuit against the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) and the PAC-12 Conference (PAC-12) for violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) and the California Labor Code. Defendants move to dismiss on the grounds that student athletes were not covered under either statute and plaintiff lacked standing to sue.
Did the plaintiff student athlete have standing to bring a putative class action against the National Collegiate Athletic Association or the PAC-12 Conference for violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act and the California Labor Code?
The defendants’ motion was granted. The court held that the plaintiff did not have standing to bring a putative class action against the National Collegiate Athletic Association or the conference for violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) because student athletes were not "employees" within the meaning of 29 U.S.C.S. § 203 of the FLSA. Furthermore, the court held that the plaintiff did not have standing to bring an action under the California Labor Code because he was not an employee within the meaning of the statute as it was defined in Cal. Lab. Code § 3352 for purposes of worker's compensation and as cases had interpreted the term. The plaintiff was not entitled to leave to amend his complaint because it was based on an untenable legal theory and amendment would be futile.