A lawsuit that is almost two years in progress might be made void by new legislation currently in committee in the United States House of Representatives.
MiLB Labor Lawsuit Might be Settled by Congress
Brett Guthrie (R-Ky.) and Cheri Bustos (D-Ill.) introduced the “Saving America’s Pasttime” bill, H.R. 5580. The bill would exempt minor league baseball teams from federal and state minimum wage and overtime pay standards.
If enacted, the exemptions would nullify the claims of a class-action lawsuit which has been levied by many current and former MiLB players. The lawsuit argues that MiLB is illegally violating the same minimum wage and overtime pay laws.
With the bipartisan support of these two members of Congress, the bill was also endorsed by MLB and MiLB. It wasn’t long before that momentum was quelled, however.
Less than 24 hours after introducing the bill, Bustos publicly withdrew her support for the legislation.
After hearing from you & learning more in the last 24 hours, I’ve immediately withdrawn my support from H.R. 5580: https://t.co/Oz0eg8g5dj
— Rep. Cheri Bustos (@RepCheri) June 30, 2016
Without the support of one of the two members of Congress who introduced it, the chances of this bill never reaching the House floor are high. Unless Guthrie can find another co-sponsor quickly, the bill could die in committee.
That wouldn’t necessarily mean that Congress’ involvement in the debate over how MiLB players should be compensated would be over, however. Similar legislation could be proposed by other members of the House or United States Senate at later dates.
If this is indeed the final hurrah for MiLB’s efforts to gain an exemption, that could lend toward deciding this matter in favor of the plaintiffs. If Congress is unable to grant MiLB the exemption it has sought for nearly two years, that would ensure that the lawsuit will move forward.
Historically, judicial opinions have often been influenced by the actions of legislators, as they provide a frame of reference for the application of the law.
In this case, a co-sponsor withdrawing her support for a bill that would have exempted MiLB from overtime and minimum wage laws could influence the presiding judge to look at MiLB’s stance on those statutes with more scrutiny. If such legislation never reaches the House floor, that could provide more reason to take the plaintiff’s claims seriously.
If the bill does clear all the hurdles and becomes law, the players’ suit will be thrown out. The ironic possibility is, however, that by introducing, and thus far continuing his support of, this bill Guthrie may have actually helped the players win this suit.