Student Athletes Are Not Employees

A recent case evaluated whether student athletes should be considered athletes, and hence entitled to protections provided by the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). The athletes asserted that because they are paid via tuition and scholarships, they should be considered employees and entitled to overtime pay and to earn at least minimum wage. Often, student athletes are required to endure long hours and very challenging demands of their coaches and schools once they sign on to play sports.

In this case, the students incorporated the intern v. employee test set out in Glatt v. Fox Searchlight Pictures, which emphasizes who is the primary beneficiary of the work. Where the primary beneficiary of the work is the employer, the worker would generally be considered an employee. However, in this instance the Seventh Circuit sided with the Universities, noting that the test to determine who is an employee under the FLSA is “a flexible one.”

While the athletes did not receive the benefits of employee status in this matter, it raises a significant point concerning the importance of examining your employment designation. Misclassification – whether as an intern, independent contractor or employee, or as an exempt v. non-exempt worker can have a significant impact on your take home pay, as well as your rights under federal and state law. Errors based on classifications remain one of the most frequent sources of labor law violations. Often, workers assume that their employee is right because they are in a position that has always been considered to be exempt. However, just because a job has traditionally been classified in one manner does not necessarily mean it is an accurate reflection of the law.

For more information, or if you have any wage and hour questions, please contact the dedicated Atlanta FLSA lawyers at Buckley Bala Wilson Mew LLP for an immediate case evaluation.