Northwestern University's appeal challenging an ALJ's decision finding that its scholarship football players are "employees" under the NLRA is still pending before the Board. Meanwhile, the NCAA is now having to contend with a collective action under the Fair Labor Standards Act. Samantha Sacko, who played soccer for the University of Houston from 2010 through 2014, has sued the NCAA and all of its 352 Division I schools, including her alma mater, asserting that the scholarship athletes at those schools are "employees" who are owed the FLSA minimum wage of $7.25 an hour. Ms. Sacko's complaint generally follows the Northwestern football players' argument to the NLRB, but she also creatively alleges that scholarship athletes are essentially in a "work-study program." The suit is pending in federal court in Indiana, where the NCAA is based.
In another suit involving UCLA basketball player Ed O'Bannon, the NCAA was found to have violated federal antitrust law by prohibiting college athletes from receiving payments for use of their names, images, and likenesses. The NCAA appealed. Can anyone say, "Time Out"? Legislation may be in the works in some states and in Congress to establish, once and for all, that student-athletes are not "employees."