Minor Leaguers Look to Strike 'Improper' MLB Wage Filings

Minor League Players Paid 'Starvation' Wages

Several minor league baseball players are suing MLB with allegations of starvation wages. These players recently threatened sanctions as they asked a California court to strike the sport's governing body's bid to exclude testimony from their damages witness.

In October motions, MLB argued that J. Michael Dennis's 2016 survey of how many hours players worked at ballparks is too riddled with errors to support damages calculations by Brian Kriegler and said both should be excluded.

According to a recent motion, MLB already targeted Dennis' testimony with a so-called Daubert motion to exclude expert testimony on the grounds that the expert's credentials or data are flawed. The recent October bid amounts to little more than an improper motion for reconsideration that violates civil court procedure and the court's explicit instructions not to challenge Dennis' survey again, the players said.

"[T]he court should strike and/or take other remedial action as appropriate," the players' motion says, citing the "defendants' total disregard of the procedural history of the case."

The players sued in 2014, accusing MLB and some of its teams of paying them as little as $1,100 per month during the five-month regular season, while not paying them at all for month-long spring and fall training camps in Florida and Arizona that are "strongly implied" as mandatory.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Joseph C. Spero certified a nationwide Fair Labor Standards Act collective action and class actions under California in 2017. The judge refused a forward-looking injunctive class, saying that doing so would implicate labor laws in multiple states. But a split Ninth Circuit panel ordered the court to reconsider in 2019, finding slight variations between state employment laws workable.

In July, Judge Spero certified the injunctive class comprising minor leaguers who have played in Arizona and Florida, where MLB conducts spring training. In August, the court said MLB could criticize "how Kriegler uses the report" but not "the underlying methodology or validity of the survey," according to Wednesday's motion.

The players also asked the court to strike a declaration by Eugene Ericksen, an expert witness for MLB, in support of the October Daubert motion, arguing it violated a case management order limiting the kinds of supplemental expert reports that could be filed at this stage of the litigation.

"[I]n another attempts to skirt the Court's directives, defendants have filed a new rebuttal report Dr. Ericksen, labeled as a 'declaration' in support of the Second Dennis Daubert," the players contend. "Regardless of the new moniker, the new Ericksen report is clearly a rebuttal aimed at Dr. Dennis final report and main survey."

If the court accepts Ericksen's declaration, then the players want to be able to reopen their deposition of him to question him on the declaration before filing a rebuttal, the motion says.

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