On December 5, 2016, Berger v. National Collegiate Athletic Association brought a major setback for those advocating that “student athletes” deserve to be compensated for their contributions to the multi-billion-dollar industry of college sports.
The plaintiffs were two former “student athletes” at the University of Pennsylvania (“Penn”) who participated on the women’s track and field team. Their lawsuit alleged that “student athletes” were employees under the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) and that Penn, along with the National Collegiate Athletic Association (“NCAA”) and over 100 other Division I universities, was violating minimum wage laws by not compensating “student athletes.” The district court dismissed their lawsuit, finding that the plaintiffs had no standing to sue any colleges other than Penn and that “student athletes” were not employees under the law.
On appeal, the Seventh Circuit affirmed the decision. Briefly addressing the issue of standing, the court found that the plaintiffs’ connection with the NCAA and other colleges was “far too tenuous to be considered an employment relationship.” Turning to the real issue—whether the plaintiffs are employees of Penn—the plaintiffs argued that the court should use the Second Circuit’s intern test to determine if they were employees. Continue Reading