According to The Associated Press (h/t ESPN), the organization hired volunteers to work at the 2013 MLB FanFest and violated minimum wage requirements when "paying" them.
A lawsuit filed Wednesday on behalf of a volunteer at last month's 2013 All-Star FanFest claims Major League Baseball violated federal and state minimum wage laws by failing to pay more than 2,000 volunteers.
The lawsuit in Manhattan federal court was brought in the name of John Chen and seeks class-action status. It asks for lost wages and urges a judge to order the league to stop soliciting and accepting work from unpaid volunteers.
It should be noted that volunteers were offered a number of "perks" if they worked enough hours. Among them were priceless, unique treasures like a free water bottle, a cap and even a baseball.
Wow, maybe I should quit my job if the MLB is still paying that well.
MLB has even asked the lucky volunteers to work for free once again during the 2014 All-Star Weekend in Minneapolis.
But seriously, a festival that charged $35 for adults, $30 for kids and demanded $7.50 for a cup of lemonade didn't have the funds to pay its workers? An event that generated $191.5 million of revenue for the New York economy couldn't spare even minimum wage for its workers?
The MLB has not commented on the pending lawsuit filed by volunteer John Chen.
Obviously, the big issue here is whether or not the workers were considered unpaid volunteers or workers who legally deserved pay, and there's some serious confusion there.
Karnyski (@the_stevek30) August 7, 2013
let me get this straight: a guy agrees to work unpaid at the mlb fanfest knowing that hell sue for the money later..— LolTorts (@KreiOfTheTiger) August 7, 2013
According to TMZ, Chen believes that a workforce comprised solely of unpaid volunteers is illegal.
In the suit, John Chen says he worked 17 hours in 4 days at the All-Star Weekend festival -- doing everything from stamping wrists to stuffing flyers into bags and even filing paperwork ... all assignments that would otherwise have to be done by paid employees.
Basically, Chen believes the concept of a "volunteer" workforce violates federal and state labor laws -- and the "volunteers" should be paid at least minimum wage ... which, in NY, is $7.25 per hour.
Perhaps it's because MLB brought in so much money from the event, but Chen clearly feels that he has been cheated, and he's letting the world know.
Should MLB pay its volunteers who worked during 2013 FanFest?
Considering how much revenue was generated without paying workers, it's understandable that the workers are upset that they weren't paid in cash...unless they knew what they were signing up for.
Some fans would undoubtedly consider it an honor to simply operate rides for MLB. If these fans knew that they were to work for free other than a few tokens of gratitude, there's no case to be made.
This is clearly going to be an interesting case going forward, and it won't look good for Bud Selig and Co. if they're found guilty of illegally hiring workers and not paying them.
Leave your thoughts on the case in the comments section below.