SBJ/August 6-12, 2012/Labor and Agents

USTA argues against class-action status for refs and umpires

The U.S. Tennis Association told a federal court last week that referees and umpires who have worked the U.S. Open since 2005 should not be allowed to collectively sue the group, a move that would allow more than 300 officials to demand back pay.

With the U.S. Open starting in three weeks, the USTA worries that if notified soon of their chance to join a class suing the tournament, referees and umpires would be distracted if not refuse to work.

The plaintiffs would then be able to “utilize the organizational infrastructure of the U.S. Open for their own purposes — to solicit umpires to refuse to work under their agreements, sign consents, and meet with them while they are in New York,” the USTA told the court last month.

During last year’s Open, four officials sued the USTA, claiming they were akin to employees and deserved overtime pay. The USTA contends they are contract workers.

The four officials, who have been joined by two others, are seeking class certification.

Whichever way the court rules, one issue has emerged: Tennis officials do not get rich off their duties. The USTA pays no more than $200 a day for the officials, the group told the court. And according to its motion to oppose class certifications, the named plaintiffs in the lawsuit make little if any profit from officiating, and some lose money from doing it. Most hold other jobs.
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