A $185 million settlement in a lawsuit by minor leaguers against Major League Baseball for violating federal minimum wage laws was approved Wednesday by a federal judge.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Joseph C. Spero issued his approval in a 36-page order in federal court in San Francisco, finding objections to the settlement were without merit. The approval will not be effective for 30 days, allowing time for appeals.
Notification of the settlement was sent ahead of approval to about 24,000 players potentially eligible to share the money, with estimated payments to players in the $5,000 to $5,500 range.
“After nine years of litigation, we are extremely pleased that the court has approved this historic settlement,” Korein Tillery, a law firm representing players, said in a statement. “The settlement is a landmark result that will provide much-needed back pay to thousands of minor league players, and will cause important changes to their contracts.”
The Major League Baseball Players Association took over representation of players with minor league contracts last September and has been negotiating for an initial collective bargaining agreement ahead of the start of the minor league season on Friday.
MLB did not comment on Spero’s approval.
The deal was announced May 10. Of the settlement, $55 million will go to attorneys’ fees, about $4.65 million to litigation costs, $995,000 in settlement administration expenses, $600,000 to class representatives in payments of $15,000 to 40 people and $37,500 to five named plaintiffs who are not class representatives in payments of $7,500 each. About $1.7 million will go to the California Labor and Workforce Development Agency.
Spero denied an objection by Eddy Vizcaino, a Pittsburgh minor league outfielder from 2015-18 who wanted more than his estimate of about $135.54, and another by Yadel Marti, Helder Velazquez, Jose Diaz and Brahiam Maldonado.
The suit was filed in 2014 by first baseman/outfielder Aaron Senne, a 10th-round pick of the Marlins in 2009 who retired in 2013, and two other retired players who had been lower-round selections: Kansas City infielder Michael Liberto and San Francisco pitcher Oliver Odle. They claimed violations of the federal Fair Labor Standards Act and state minimum wage and overtime requirements for a work week they estimated at 50 to 60 hours.
The settlement covers all players with minor league contracts who played in the California League for at least seven straight days starting on Feb. 7, 2010, through the settlement’s preliminary approval last Aug. 26; players who participated in spring training, extended spring training or instructional leagues in Florida from Feb. 7, 2009, through last Aug. 26; and players who participated in spring training, extended spring training or instructional leagues in Arizona from Feb. 7, 2011, through last Aug. 26.
For players in those groups to be eligible, their participation must have occurred before signing a major league contract.