By Devin Rauchwerger and Gregg E. Clifton, of Jackson Lewis
Federal Magistrate Judge Joseph C. Spero struck a blow to MLB when he reversed course on his earlier decision and recertified a minor league collective and class action against MLB.
In July 2016, the court decertified the minor league collective and class action in Senne, et al. v. Kansas City Royals Baseball Corp., et al., No. 14-CV-00608-JCS. However, on August 4, 2016, the Court granted in part the plaintiff’s Motion for Reconsideration, giving them the opportunity to narrow the class definitions and address the court’s concerns expressed in its July decision.
The previously proposed class included “All persons who under a Minor League Uniform Player contract, work or worked for MLB or any MLB franchise as a minor league baseball player within the relevant state at any time.” The court found too many individualized issues to certify the class.
The new classes approved by the court include a Fair Labor Standards Act collective consisting of minor league players participating in the California league, spring training, instructional league, or extended spring training on or after February 7, 2011. The court also recertified a California class consisting of minor league players who participated in the California league on or after February 7, 2010.
In reversing course, Judge Spero stated,
“The Court now reaches a different conclusion and finds that the classes have been narrowed sufficiently that any individualized issues that arise in connection with the representative evidence offered by Plaintiffs will not predominate over common issues.”
In its previous decision, the court took issue with the plaintiffs including winter conditioning activities as part of the class definition. The court found that players are given wide latitude in their winter conditioning workouts, giving rise to too many individualized issues. By excluding these winter activities under the new class definition, the focus is on team activities and conditioning, rather than individualized winter programs of each player. The court also relied on the fact that “many of the individualized inquiries cited by Defendants go to damages and not liability, and therefore do not present an impediment to class certification.”
The court ordered the parties to file a proposed schedule of the case by April 28, 2017. Ultimately, MLB may be forced to take this issue to trial.