Appeals court expands minor league salary suit

SAN FRANCISCO -- A federal appeals court has expanded a lawsuit by minor league baseball players alleging that they are being paid less than minimum wage.

Players sued major league teams in February 2014, claiming that most earn less than $7,500 annually, in violation of several laws. Magistrate Judge Joseph C. Spero granted class-action status to a California class of players in March 2017 but denied the status to Arizona and Florida classes.

In a 2-1 decision Friday, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said class-action status should be given to the Arizona and Florida classes too and sent the case back to U.S. District Court for additional proceedings.

Circuit Judges Richard A. Paez and Michael R. Murphy, both appointed by President Bill Clinton, voted to expand the classes in a decision written by Paez. Circuit Judge Sandra S. Ikuta, appointed by President George W. Bush, dissented and said the District Court erred in granting class-action status to the California class without completing an analysis of California's choice-of-law rules.

Murphy, a 10th Circuit senior judge, sat by designation.

Major League Baseball declined comment. MLB could ask the panel to reconsider, could ask an 11-judge limited en banc panel to rehear the matter or could ask the U.S. Supreme Court to review the decision.

Garrett Broshuis, a former minor leaguer who is a lawyer for the players, said he hopes to bring the case to trial soon.

The California class includes players who signed a minor league contract, played in the California League starting Feb. 7, 2010, and had not signed a major league contract before then. The Arizona and Florida classes include players who while signed to a minor league contract participated in spring training, extended spring training or instructional leagues starting Feb. 7, 2010, and had not signed a big league contract before then.