SBD/April 26, 2013/Leagues and Governing Bodies

Judge Rules All U.S. Open Refs, Umpires Since '05 Are Part Of Class Action Lawsuit

All referees and umpires who have worked at the U.S. Open tennis championships since '05 are now part of a class action lawsuit suing the USTA for back pay and damages, a N.Y. federal judge ruled Thursday. The lawsuit, brought by four referees in '11, can proceed under New York state labor law, meaning class members have to choose to opt out of the case to not be a part of it. That is significant because Judge Andrew Carter could have let the case proceed under federal law only, and then members would have to opt in. The USTA had stoutly resisted creating the class, arguing the refs and umpires were independent contractors not covered under labor laws. The USTA also argued there was so much difference between the jobs of the proposed class that they could not withstand the legal test for creating one. While the court was not ruling on the merits of the case, Carter wrote in his opinion he disagreed with the USTA contention that there was so much difference between the job descriptions of the refs and umpires they could not be covered under a class. “While the line to chair umpire experience certainly varies at the margins, it appears from the deposition testimony, together with declarations offered by the USTA -- that most, if not all, Umpires perform a similar swath of duties,” Carter wrote. It is unclear exactly how many people will be part of the suit (last year alone there were 289 line umpires who worked the Open). Carter ordered the USTA to make available to the class counsel by Monday a computer file listing all the names with addresses. The mailing is ordered to go out by May 6. The class counsel is Abbey Spanier, LLP, and The Law Office of Mitchell Schley, LLP. The USTA could not immediately be reached for comment.
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