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Volunteer files lawsuit against Major League Baseball for not paying him. A VOLUNTEER.

Aug 7, 2013, 3:32 PM EDT

lawsuit gavel

That word you keep using. I do not think it means what you think it means:

A lawsuit filed Wednesday on behalf of a volunteer at last month’s 2013 All-Star FanFest claims Major League Baseball violated federal and state minimum wage laws by failing to pay more than 2,000 volunteers.

The lawsuit in Manhattan federal court was brought in the name of John Chen and seeks class-action status. It asks for lost wages and urges a judge to order the league to stop soliciting and accepting work from unpaid volunteers.

As opposed to, what? Paid volunteers?

Can someone please tell me what I’m missing?

  1. bfunk1978 - Aug 7, 2013 at 3:35 PM

    In my area, a couple of “volunteer” fire departments actually pay the firefighters on a per-callout basis. This is probably not at all like that, though.

    • mt99808 - Aug 7, 2013 at 3:53 PM

      Not sure where you are but that is the standard here in Ontario. It’s not small either.

      • bfunk1978 - Aug 7, 2013 at 4:08 PM

        I’m in central Illinois, and I don’t know exactly how much it is, but those guys earn it without a doubt.

  2. samiratou - Aug 7, 2013 at 3:38 PM

    Yeah, I can’t say I get this one, either. Is it kind of scummy for MLB to use volunteers to staff the ASG Fan Fest when they make tons of money off of it? Probably. Wanna stop it? Don’t volunteer. If you volunteer, seems to me you know what you’re getting yourself into. If they promised to pay you and you weren’t paid? Totally different story.

  3. Conner012367 - Aug 7, 2013 at 3:39 PM

    Um volunteers don’t get paid.

  4. buffal0sportsfan - Aug 7, 2013 at 3:40 PM

    This should be an interesting thing to follow.

    • mybrunoblog - Aug 7, 2013 at 9:48 PM

      Not really. If there is any justice left in our nation this case gets thrown out real early on. What a joke.

      • skids003 - Aug 8, 2013 at 8:09 AM

        I sadly don’t think there is any justice left.

  5. bfunk1978 - Aug 7, 2013 at 3:40 PM

    Also if you’re going to quote The Princess Bride, do you think you could quote it correctly? :p

  6. Max Miller - Aug 7, 2013 at 3:41 PM

    I wonder if this is just an outgrowth of unpaid-intern lawsuits that happened earlier this year: http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2013-06-27/unpaid-intern-lawsuits-explained

  7. deathmonkey41 - Aug 7, 2013 at 3:42 PM

    Lawyers filing frivilous lawsuits- who would have thunk it?

  8. El Bravo - Aug 7, 2013 at 3:45 PM

    A min wage claim….interesting. I’m not sure what the law is on this but it seems pretty dumb. It’s the same as volunteering for festivals, which usually is unpaid with some free time to view a performance and a nice new tee.

    • stlouis1baseball - Aug 7, 2013 at 4:24 PM

      It will be interesting to see how this plays out.
      I mean…think about how many events take place in which volunteers are the majority of the worker force. Charity events, Super Bowls, PGA events, amateur sporting events, NCAA tournaments… the list is endless.

  9. stlouis1baseball - Aug 7, 2013 at 3:48 PM

    Totally off topic…but amusing nonetheless.

    My buddies Wife and her side of the family call a double header a “double hitter.”
    Believe it or not…they are baseball fans and they have always done this.
    They are good people. But admittedly…they are a little backwards.
    It’s went on so long now my buddy and I always refer to it this way in their company.

    Just a bit of worthless information for you…

    • thumper001 - Aug 7, 2013 at 4:30 PM

      You sure you’re not on the outside, looking in at a long-running inside family joke?

      Like say; the family once had a crazy great-uncle Bluto (now passed), who once made an impassioned speech about the Germans bombing Pearl Harbor; and now at family gatherings, somebody inevitably states, “Hey, anybody remember when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor?” And the family cracks up hysterically, tears running down their cheeks, as they pound insanely on the kitchen table.

      Woe as me, to the outsider who pipes up and tries to correct their error with the obvious inaccuracy in American history.

      LOL.

      • stlouis1baseball - Aug 7, 2013 at 4:33 PM

        Lol! Fair question Thumper.
        But no…in this case…they truly do think it is called a “double hitter.”
        Or perhaps they are just too lazy to say it correctly. As mentioned, the family is a little backwards. My buddy and I get a kick out of it. We try to work it in when we are both around them to see if it registers with them…even a little bit. And nope. No reaction.
        Which is equally funny.

  10. amhendrick - Aug 7, 2013 at 3:51 PM

    Actually may not be frivolous: “Under the FLSA, employees may not volunteer services to for-profit private sector employers” http://www.dol.gov/elaws/esa/flsa/docs/volunteers.asp

    • blacksables - Aug 7, 2013 at 3:57 PM

      If they’re not getting paid, how are they employees?

      • bfunk1978 - Aug 7, 2013 at 4:10 PM

        That’s just it – if they’re not allowed to volunteer time, then they *are* employees.

      • historiophiliac - Aug 7, 2013 at 4:14 PM

        There are measures to determine if someone qualifies as an employee or not. You can’t just not pay someone and boom, they’re not an employee. The judge would make an analysis to decide if the people have been wrongly classified or not. It’s the same thing when trying to determine if someone is an employee or contractor or consultant, etc.

    • brazcubas - Aug 7, 2013 at 4:18 PM

      I would have to read the actual legislation and accompanying regulations, but I imagine this refers to full- or part-time work as opposed to a one time event.

    • American of African Descent - Aug 7, 2013 at 9:34 PM

      Was John Chen an employee of MLB? If not, then the law suit is pretty frivolous.

  11. rhmurphy - Aug 7, 2013 at 3:57 PM

    Sounds like the next logical step following the lawsuits against unpaid internships.

  12. DelawarePhilliesFan - Aug 7, 2013 at 4:00 PM

    I’m not a labor attorney – but if the work they volunteered for us in fact subject to minimum wage, then isnt it a moot point that they volunteered? I mean, McDonslds could not say they are okay paying $3 an hour because the person agreed to that wage.

  13. cfischeraz - Aug 7, 2013 at 4:02 PM

    Something tells me the attorneys aren’t volunteering their services.

  14. cohnjusack - Aug 7, 2013 at 4:27 PM

    Ahh! Smart strategy. I believe I’m going to start volunteering at various soup kitchens and then sue them for not paying me. I’ll either live like a king or be the first case of a Judge beating a man to death in a courtroom with his gavel.

    • historiophiliac - Aug 7, 2013 at 5:06 PM

      I had a complainant that used to make extra cash testing employers. It was awesome. They’d get the complaint and some attorney would call me huffing and puffing about how this person didn’t know squat — I’d laugh to myself, thinking — dude, this guy set the caselaw; you are over your head. You’d think they’d be smart enough to know the first thing you do is search the party names.

  15. American of African Descent - Aug 7, 2013 at 9:35 PM

    Dust off Rule 11!

  16. klokskap - Aug 7, 2013 at 9:58 PM

    A steer can try.

  17. klokskap - Aug 7, 2013 at 10:00 PM

    At PGA events, “volunteers” actually pay for the privilege of working. My father-in-law has done that several times. Technically, you’re paying for a cap and shirt, but still, you’re paying to work. http://www.forbes.com/sites/michaelnoer/2012/08/02/the-pga-tours-secret-army/

    • stlouis1baseball - Aug 8, 2013 at 8:55 AM

      Yeah…my buddies Mom volunteers anytime there is a PGA and/or Senior PGA event in the state. She also worked the Super Bowl when it was in Indy.

  18. psunick - Aug 8, 2013 at 12:27 PM

    Volunteer is not a synonym for “work for free.” Just as the first poster said…volunteer firefighters are most definitely paid.

  19. kevinbnyc - Aug 8, 2013 at 12:57 PM

    ‘Merica

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