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Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Employment Status: NCAA Division 1 Player Not an Employee

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the district court’s dismissal of a Division I college football player’s claim that he was an employee of the National Collegiate Athletic Association and the PAC-12 Conference within the meaning of the Fair Labor Standards Act and California labor law and thus entitled to minimum wage and overtime pay.

The court held that Division I football players were not employees of the NCAA or PAC-12 as a matter of federal law because the economic reality of the relationship between the NCAA/PAC-12 and student-athletes did not reflect an employment relationship. The panel concluded that NCAA regulations providing a limitation on scholarships did not create any expectation of compensation; plaintiff could not demonstrate that the NCAA or the PAC-12 had the power to fire or hire him; and there was no evidence that the NCAA rules were conceived or carried out to evade the law. Further, the revenue generated by college sports did not convert the relationship between student-athletes and the NCAA into an employment relationship. Thus, the NCAA and Pac-12 were regulatory bodies, not employers of student-athletes under the Fair Labor Standards Act.

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals also affirmed the district court’s dismissal for failure to state a claim of plaintiff’s California law claims. The panel held that the district court properly relied on a
legislative exception for student-athletes from workers compensation benefits and the California courts’ interpretation of this exception. The panel held that, under the California Labor Code, student-athletes were not employees of the NCAA/PAC-12.
Dawson v. NCAA; PAC-12, No. 17-15973 (9 Cir 2019) Decided Aug. 12, 2019


Jon L. Gelman of Wayne NJ is the author of NJ Workers’ Compensation Law (West-Thomson-Reuters) and co-author of the national treatise, Modern Workers’ Compensation Law (West-Thomson-Reuters). For over 4 decades the Law Offices of Jon L Gelman has been representing injured workers and their families who have suffered occupational accidents and illnesses.