College athletes here in Georgia draw large crowds to their sporting events just as they do in other states. The people around them, including many students, work at the events to earn money. The athletes, however, do not earn anything since sports are considered an extracurricular activity. Some people, however, feel that this violates the Fair Labor Standards Act since other college students are paid for the work they do at their colleges and universities and have filed a wage and hour complaint in federal court against the NCAA and the Division 1 schools around the country.
Those who support the lawsuit contend that student athletes could be considered to be in a school’s work-study program. If that happened, they would be paid at least minimum wage. The lawsuit also asks the court to order that the athletesbe awarded two years worth of wages that could be considered back pay.
The NCAA maintains that the men and women who participate in college sports do so because they enjoy it. It is likened to any other extracurricular activity such as the glee club, the school band or a debate team. At the base of the lawsuit is whether students who participate in a school’s athletic program should be considered employees.
If a federal court determines through this wage and hour complaint that student athletes are employees, it will most likely have a significant impact on colleges and universities throughout the country, including those here in Georgia. The cost of paying the athletes would potentially be passed on to the students and those who purchase tickets to the games. It remains to be seen if this case will expand the applicability of the FLSA. When that has occurred in the past, the affect businesses have had to raise their costs and/or cut corners in other areas in order to accommodate the law and the court decisions that interpret it.
Source: cbs19.tv, “New lawsuit targets NCAA and every Division I school”, Delaney Bentley, Oct. 23, 2014