Are College Athletes Employees?

Hello, and welcome to LegalEase.

 Today, I would like to talk about student athletes and whether they are employees of their colleges or universities.

This is an interesting topic.

Recently, the National Labor Relations Board ruled that the basketball team at Dartmouth College are employed by their college.  Apparently, there was a request by the basketball team to develop a union. Now, either the team or a local union made the request but, we know that there was a request for the team to unionize.

Let’s back up a little bit. In prior segments, we have discussed the National Labor Relations Board and its authority to interpret the National Labor Relations Act. Traditionally, the National Labor Relations Act only applied to unions, but because the Board has expanded its rulings so much, the Act now applies to the private sector. This is the reason we often talk about the National Labor Relations Board and the private sector.

Now, back to this case.

The Dartmouth College basketball team requested to develop a union. The school did not like it, so the school filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board in Boston. The NLRB said the basketball team receives compensation in the form of fringe benefits, equipment, and uniforms, etc., and they are controlled by the college. The Board then ruled that the team is a group of employees.

Now, this is an interesting ruling because: (1) The ruling will be appealed to the full NLRB; and (2) In 2015, the NLRB declined to rule on a case that was similar regarding whether scholarship football players at Northwestern University should be considered employees. It will be interesting to see if the full Board accepts this case and how it rules. Stay tuned!

If you have any questions about this case or a similar case, give us a call. Our link is always in the bio.