News & Notes: U.S. Court of Appeals rules student-athletes not employees| Jan 18, 2017
The 7th U.S circuit Court of Appeals recently ruled against several former student-athletes who claimed that they deserved to be financially compensated for participation in their college’s athletic program.
The court upheld the ruling of a February 2016 case where the student athletes’ claims were dismissed. Reasons cited in the 7th Circuit Court ruling against the students included the “long standing tradition of amateurism” within collegiate athletics. Another reason that the court cited was that, when a student agrees to become a student athlete, there is no expectation that the student is going to be paid. The court did acknowledge that the athletes put a large quantity of time into their sports, but pointed out that the time was never spent with the expectation of receiving financial compensation in the form of an actual income. Therefore, the court upheld the decision that student athletes are not employees under the Fair Labor Standards Act, and are therefore not guaranteed to be paid the federal minimum wage.
The three students who filed the lawsuit were former University of Pennsylvania students who believed that they should be entitled to minimum wage compensation for their time in the University of Pennsylvania’s athletic program.
No universities in the Ivy League grant any athletic scholarships, a fact which separates this particular case from many previous cases surrounding student-athlete pay. Not only that, but the three University of Pennsylvania athletes participated in track and field, rather than a sport known for bringing revenue to the University, such as football or basketball. Circuit Judge David Hamilton stressed the importance of this distinction in a concurring opinion, noting that the logic of the University of Pennsylvania plaintiffs might imply that other extracurricular activities that do not generate income for a university, such as journalism, music, or debate, might also have to provide wages. Hamilton also noted, however, that he was not sure if the same ruling should be applied to athletes who participate in collegiate sports that do earn the university revenue.
The court filed its ruling on Monday, December 5th, 2016. The decision was made in Chicago, Illinois.