NLRB levels Complaint Against USC, Pac-12, and NCAA, bringing a multibillion-dollar enterprise one step close to unionization.
Last week, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) alleged in a complaint that the University of Southern California (USC), the Pac-12, and the National Collegiate Athletics Associations (NCAA) are joint employers and willfully misclassify their football players, men’s basketball players, and women’s basketball players as “non-employee student athletes” to discourage them from engaging in protected activities such as unionization. The complaint calls for USC, the Pac-12, and the NCAA to reclassify those athletes as “employees” in their handbooks and rules.
The employment-status of college athletes is the most pressing issue facing the world of college sports and threatens to upend the foundation of the multibillion-dollar industry. For decades, the NCAA has argued that amateurism - a model in which college athletes get 0% of the revenue generated by their sports – was necessary to maintain the value and integrity of college athletics.
However, as coaching salaries have ballooned and TV deals for college sports approach nearly $10 billion, the amateurism model is increasingly seen as exploitative and has come under increasing scrutiny, leading some experts to expect the model to collapse under mounting pressure in federal courts and state legislatures.
If the NCAA’s amateurism model were to collapse, whether due to the aforementioned pressures or NLRB complaints, the repercussions would be monumental, prompting questions of how to compensate over 500,000 NCAA athletes, 85% of which live below the poverty line.
According to the NLRB’s complaint, a hearing on their case is scheduled for November 7, 2023, in Los Angeles.
Bloomberg Article on Landmark California Supreme Court Case Features Commentary from Lauren Teukolsky
Lauren Teukolsky was quoted in a Bloomberg Law article outlining the issues at stake in Adoph v. Uber Technologies, a closely watched California Supreme Court case set for oral arguments on Tuesday, May 9 at 9:00 a.m. Pacific Time.
The question at the heart of Adolph v. Uber is whether an employee can continue litigating PAGA claims on behalf of her coworkers once the individual component of her PAGA claim has been sent to arbitration, a private, quasi-court forum that is favored by employers.
If the Court rules that such plaintiffs maintain their standing, it would allow employees to continue holding employers accountable for company-wide violations of the Labor Code under the Private Attorneys General Act ("PAGA"), a state law that authorizes employees to collect civil penalties for violations against themselves and their coworkers on behalf of California’s Labor Commissioner, which has struggled to keep up with a backlog of cases for the past several decades.
The Bloomberg article features Ms. Teukolsky’s predictions for how the Supreme Court will likely rule:
“’I would be very surprised if the California Supreme Court chose to eviscerate the PAGA statute,’ said Lauren Teukolsky, founder of Teukolsky Law in Pasadena, Calif.
‘And if they agree with Uber’s position, PAGA would be eviscerated because companies would be able to send individual PAGA claims to arbitration and have the remainder of the PAGA claims, the claims on behalf of others, dismissed,” Teukolsky said. “It is entirely contrary to the stated purpose of PAGA, which is to encourage private attorneys to augment the state’s ability to enforce the labor code.’”
A decision in Adolph v. Uber is expected by August 2023. Oral arguments, which will be held remotely, are scheduled for Tuesday, May 9 at 9:00 a.m. and can be watched via the Supreme Court’s website.
Lauren Teukolsky is the founder and owner of Teukolsky Law, A Professional Corporation.